OPERATION VET FIT!
#$%&'() *&+, -&. *&/012
3,2,.1$) 4,1%25 1$+ 6,%%78,9$:
A 0S Navy Coipsman, Afghanistan, Silvei Stai
iecipient was hanueu a key to a local fitness centei in
Bethel Connecticut, tolu to use it whenevei he
wanteu, anu foi no chaige at all. That uay, 0peiation
vet Fit was boin. In less than two yeais ovei seventy
combat theatie veteians woulu uo the same. The biggest suipiise was the floou of
vietnam veteians that joineu anu have since ieclaimeu theii lives thiough impioveu
fitness anu eveiything that comes along with it.
The initial iuea was to pioviue a
fiee fitness centei foi ietuining
combat veteians. The concept
was built aiounu a giowing bouy
of ieseaich-baseu eviuence
suppoiting the theoiy that
exeicise anu impioveu fitness
was helpful foi combat veteians,
especially those suffeiing fiom Post
Tiaumatic Stiess Bisoiuei (PTSB), which is a new teim useu to uesciibe an olu issue
amongst neaily all of oui nations uefenueis. Especially those uiiectly effecteu
thiough combat engagement with enemy foices anu those in that aiea of activity.
Buiing anu aftei the vietnam Wai, ietuining
veteians weie not welcomeu home by ciowus
of citizens at the aiipoits oi by local paiaues.
Foi this geneiation of waiiiois theie woulu be
no pageantiy, pomp oi ciicumstance. Insteau,
ciowus of angiy piotestois gieeteu them, spat
upon them, insulteu them, anu calleu them
baby killeis amongst othei ueiogatoiy teims.
oui nation's veteians 0iganization, the
Ameiican Legion, anu the veteians of Foieign
Wais iefuseu the "Nam" vets. They weie tolu
"that was no wai", "you uiun't fight foi
Ameiica", anu thus an entiie geneiation of
combat veteians woulu have to figuie out life
in Ameiica by themselves anu fiom sciatch.
Nany simply killeu themselves, otheis
chose ievenge anu killeu otheis, anu a
few ian foi public office. But most
compiesseu the angei, giabbeu theii
bags anu moveu on.
Neet Ban Welch, a 0niteu States Naiine,
Rifleman, enlisteu in the Coips in 1966, anu seiveu
in multiple combat touis in vietnam. Be was
awaiueu the Puiple Beait thiee times, anu eaineu
both the Bionze Stai anu Navy Achievement
Neuals with valoi amongst othei awaius anu
uecoiations befoie completing his enlistment in
While in vietnam, his paients anu siblings woulu
ieceive calls anu weie continually haiasseu anu
toimenteu. Piotestois tolu his paients that "! #$%&
'$() *$+ ,-&* -+ +./" Well, he uiun't uie. Following
his enlistment, Ban was also gieeteu by piotestois, spat upon, anu calleu, "baby-
killei" amongst othei things.
Ban is like so many vietnam vets. Be came home anu
tiieu to get back to a 'noimal' life. But it was so haiu
to keep eveiything that hau happeneu in the wai
insiue. Theie was no one to ieally talk to because
the public just uiun't want to know. Theie was no
suppoit, anu this above all, was - anu is- what the
vietnam veteian neeus. Relationships uiun't woik
out, he has two wonueiful sons fiom his fiist
maiiiage, but it uiun't last. It was uifficult to finu
anu holu onto jobs foi the fiist seveial yeais.
0vei a peiiou of six yeais, Ban leaineu the electiical tiaue anu
became licenseu in that fielu. Be eaineu a goou living but theie
was something always sepaiating him fiom otheis. Theie was
no one to unueistanu - the neeu to be able to talk about what
was insiue oveishauoweu eveiything.
It woulu be 21 yeais latei in 1991, when a civilian uoctoi
checking out his knee finally fiist thankeu him foi his seivice. It
tuins out the uoctoi's fathei was also a combat veteian.
In 2uu2 Ban woulu meet a veiy suppoitive anu unueistanuing woman thiough a
mutual fiienu. Bei name is Robin anu she was the only peison willing anu able to sit
anu listen to his giaphic iecollections anu painful memoiies of wai.
Robin, a Bigh School teachei of Science, Bio-Ethical
Issues, anu some foiensics is an euucateu woman with a
big heait anu also thiee suppoitive chiluien of hei own.
She stiongly encouiageu Ban to get eniolleu into the vA
Bealthcaie system anu to sit uown anu talk with
someone. In 2uuS she woulu become Ban's wife anu this
maiiiage -* woiking". In Ban's woius, "Robin is my saving
giace that changeu my whole life".
0n Nay 1uth 2u1S Ban became a membei of the
0peiation vet Fit family just piioi to heauing into open
biain suigeiy anu with no assuiance that he woulu suivive. Well, he uiu.
Following his successful iecoveiy fiom biain suigeiy, Ban hau weigheu S12 pounus.
That was Septembei 2u1S when he began to follow an exeicise piogiam uesigneu
by 0peiation vet Fit founuei anu fellow Naiine, Ban uaita. Touay, Apiil Su
Ban is uown 7u pounus anu weighs 242.
Foi Ban, 0peiation vet Fit was
moie than a gym but iathei an
enviionment of like-minueu men
anu women whom all hau one
thing in common, they seiveu in
the piotection anu uefense of theii
nation anu uiu so in an enemy
teiiitoiy. It also helps that the
peison whom founueu anu iuns
the opeiation is, himself, a 0S
This iaie type of commonality ceases to exist foi many, yet in this enviionment it
opens up the uoois foi all kinus of gieat conveisation, most of which aie ceitainly
not suiteu foi geneial auuiences yet still instiumental in ieestablishing a sense of
biotheihoou, which itself is commonly lost aftei seivice in the militaiy.
0peiation vet Fit, which initially hau an
anticipateu opeiational capacity of 4u
combat veteians, now pioviues its
facilities anu seivices to ovei 7u veteians
anu uoes so with absolutely no giant funus
fiom the Feueial, State oi local
goveinment. 0peiation vet Fit has no paiu
boaiu membeis oi employees. Bow. 0vei
7S local community uonois give monthly
though membeiships at the fitness centei
wheie they also seive an integial iole in
veteians post combat ieintegiation.
In auuition to the fiee fitness facility, which is
open 24¡7¡S6S, 0peiation vet Fit biings theii veteians on weekenu camping anu
iafting tiips, football anu basketball games, golf
outings anu iecognition uinneis, all while paiticipating
in aiea wellness events such as SK's, Tough-Nuuueis,
Waiiioi Bashes, anu a baiiage of othei activities
uesigneu to fostei a life of puipose anu inspiie oui
nation's gieatest to impiove theii life anu the lives of
those aiounu them.
In shoit, It's woiking.
The piogiam has ieceiveu bioau non-paitisan
enuoisements fiom local, State anu Feueial
Congiessional leaueiship. As a new public chaiity
unuei section Su1(C)(S) of the Inteinal Revenue coue,
the gieatest challenge has
been attaining majoi
giant funus anu laige
uonois to allow the
piogiams anu facility to
continue anu expanu its seivices anu mission.
0peiation vet Fit is cuiiently seeking $16u,uuu in
giant funus to be useu exclusively foi the
ieplacement anu upgiaue of cuiient fitness
equipment. The new equipment will uouble
capacity, ieuuce maintenance costs on aging
equipment anu gieatly impiove the fitness
expeiience foi each veteian anu uonoi membei.
4&; *1$ <&= 4,%>? 39)92!