Sweating together on Memorial Day to pay tribute to the fallen

Participants of all stripes come together to complete the Murph at Endorphin in Eagle

Participants complete pushups, pullups and squats Monday while doing the Murph Memorial Day workout at Endorphin in Eagle.
Nate Peterson/Vail Daily

EAGLE — After knocking out a mile run, 300 squats, 200 pushups and 100 pullups, all while wearing a 20-pound Kevlar vest, Kipper Dorn was struggling to finish the final mile run of Monday’s group workout at Endorphin.

Thankfully, he didn’t have to do it on his own.

To push to the finish, Dorn found strength from those running alongside him, and from his late father. The vest belonged to Dorn’s dad — a career Army man who served for four decades, and who wore it while deployed in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm.

“I wore it in his memory and in his honor, to just suffer through it with him,” Dorn said after completing the Memorial Day workout known as the Murph. “I definitely underestimated how much harder it was with the actual Kevlar vest. It weighs about 20 pounds. … Honestly, the last half-mile, I was really struggling, but Jordan, one of our teammates, she ran right next to me and pushed me through.”

Suffering through it together — that’s the objective of the Murph, which is named in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL officer who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions during the Afghanistan War.

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Gyms all across the country have taken to doing the workout to honor service members, and to raise money and awareness for a number of causes. Monday’s workout at Endorphin helped raised money to donate to Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital, a group that is providing font-line medical assistance and emergency evacuation to those involved in the defense of Ukraine.

Kipper Dorn does squats while wearing a Kevlar vest Monday at Endorphin in Eagle. Dorn’s late father wore the vest while deployed in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm.
Endorphin/Courtesy photo

The gym has a local connection to the conflict, and PFVMH, with member Oksana Myers, a native of Ukraine, currently there helping to provide relief to refugees of the war. One of her brothers is also driving a mobile ambulance through war zones, picking up injured residents and bringing them to safety.

Sweating together

Knowing that, Monday’s workout took on added significance for the 37 brave souls who faced the challenge of the Murph on a crisp, cool morning before most of Eagle had gotten out of bed and long before the backyard barbecues got cranked up. Among those who completed the workout: elementary, middle school and high school students, including Evelyn Perejda, a second grader at Brush Creek Elementary.

Evelyn completed the workout with her sister, Elyse, a fourth grader, and her mother, Erin, a member at Endorphin.

“I would probably say the hardest part was the pushups, because I didn’t use my knees,” Evelyn said.

Both young girls noted that their great-grandfathers served in the military, and one was set to take an Honor Flight, which honors vets by giving them an all-expenses paid trip to tour monuments in Washington D.C.

A crew numbering close to 40 at Endorphin in Eagle before setting out on the first mile run of Monday’s Memorial Day Murph workout. The event raised money to help with relief efforts in Ukraine.
Endorphin/Courtesy photo

When asked what brought them out Monday, Erin Perejda said: “Just being with the community, pushing ourselves, and honoring everybody before us.”

Will Geiman, the star quarterback of the Eagle Valley High School football team, was among the group of high schoolers who completed the workout. Geiman, who graduated on Saturday, said he loves doing pullups, but has never been much of a distance runner, so having buddy Riis Lindley there to run with him helped.

“Having everyone here makes it way easier to do it,” he said. “You see everyone else struggling with you. It’s not just you versus you.”

Sarah Brubeck, who teaches classes at Endorphin, said Monday’s workout was “a fun community event to pay respect to the people who work so hard to protect our freedom.”

She added: “Any sort of modification, it doesn’t matter — whatever you need to do to complete the workout. I think that the energy from the community just pushing themselves kind of pulls you through the workout.”

She was there with her father, Kevin, who cooked up a delicious breakfast — pancakes, bacon, and heaps of fresh fruit — for every participant who completed the Murph. Kevin Brubeck actually does a Murph every single Saturday as a way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, like Michael Murphy.

“Two years ago, the first time we did it at the gym, he thought he was going to die,” Sarah Brubeck said with a laugh. “So he decided to do it every weekend from then on, and he’s continued to do it.”

Kevin cooks bacon and pancakes on the grill Monday outside Endorphin in Eagle. Brubeck completes a Murph workout every Saturday.
Nate Peterson/Vail Daily

Chris Kuchler, also a member of the gym, said the pullups were the hardest part for him because he’s had three operations on his shoulders. But echoing Geiman and Sarah Brubeck, he said what got him through was the effort everyone put in.

“You go that much further when you’ve got someone behind you sweating just as hard,” he said. “And everyone’s got a story, as far as what they’re dealing with. You go hard.”

Man on a mission

Chris Lindley, the owner of the gym, certainly has a story. A former Army reservist, Lindley was called up to active duty in November 2004 and deployed to Iraq just a few days after his son, Riis, was born.

When he arrived in Kirkuk, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, as an environmental science officer of preventive medicine in the 793rd Medical Detachment of the U.S. Army Medical Reserves, Lindley said he was instantly greeted by terrifying mortar fire.

During his 13-month deployment, Lindley said he and other members of his unit quickly became desensitized to the shelling and other daily horrors of war. Armed with a master’s degree in epidemiology, Lindley’s job within his specialized tactical unit was to identify and secure biological weapons of mass destruction.

While his unit didn’t find any WMD, it did find plenty of firefights while conducting regular raids on enemy compounds. There was one 60-day stretch where Lindley said his unit didn’t go a day without getting shot at.

There were too many close calls to count. Among the 11 men with whom he served, Lindley said he’s the only one left. His friends, many of whom redeployed after their initial 13-month tour, were either killed in combat or succumbed to death by suicide or substance abuse when they returned home.

He brought up that sobering fact to the group before everyone headed out on the opening mile run, which he completed wearing the Kevlar vest he wore while deployed.

On the run, Lindley recounted that what saved him when he got home was his wife, Corina, and the family and the life he’d already established before shipping out to Iraq.

His mission these days is leading Vail Health’s efforts to save lives in Eagle County in a dual role as chief population health officer and the executive director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health.

He’s also continued to lead workouts at Endorphin, the gym the couple owns, and which Corina manages.

Through the pandemic, while helping lead the hospital’s organization-wide response to COVID-19, Lindley constantly preached the importance of daily exercise. It’s one of the keys to helping save lives, be it from the tolls of substance abuse, or mental health issues, or from the coronavirus.

While Monday’s workout held extra significance, you can bet he’ll be back at it Tuesday, and Wednesday, and every day after that with many of the same faces who joined him Monday to sweat together.

“Have fun, be safe, then eat a big breakfast with Kevin,” he said before the group headed out on the opening run. “Honor each other.”

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