BILLINGS — In a workout at Iron Den gym in Billings, a group of people literally stepped up to promote awareness of veterans suicides and support a Shepherd veteran who has a goal to build a long-lasting war memorial.
The workout is called CHAD 1000X, where people are tasked with performing 1,000 step ups onto a box while their time is tracked.
“It’s just monotonous. Just stepping up and down for 1,000 times. You’ve just got to keep stepping," said Justin Williams, head coach at Iron Den.
The workout can be done on a scale of four difficulties. At its most difficult, people strap on rucksacks that contain between 20 and 45 pounds, stepping up 1,000 times onto a box 20 inches high.
Teams can also knock out the task among themselves with a box height of their choosing. The Williams family of Billings were there in a team of three.
“I enjoyed it. I wanted to do the 1,000 myself. These guys didn’t think I could do it, but I can," said mother Dennisse Williams.
The workout is part of an awareness campaign started by the widow of Chad Wilkinson, a Navy Seal who took his own life in 2018. During Veterans Day week, the workouts are held across the country.
“It just brings awareness to suicide prevention with veterans. We partnered with Rick Baker here, a local veteran, to do something for his memorial and to help raise money. Just for a good cause and to help out the community," Coach Justin Williams said.
At the Billings workout, people were encouraged to donate to Sheperd Army veteran Frederick (Rick) Baker and his Hoodies for Heroes fundraising campaign. Baker's goal is to build a lasting memorial inscribed with the name of every Montana soldier who was killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“So I feel this is the least we could do, is be able to make something that’s tangible that will last forever. Where these families and future generations won’t forget and can come pay homage and tribute. We’re super excited about it," Baker said.
Baker stepped onto an overturned tractor tire 1,000 times while carrying between 50 and 55 pounds in his rucksack.
"Box ups in honor of raising awareness for 22 a day. That’s how many veterans in the United States of America commit suicide each day and that’s 22 too many," Baker said.
Baker sells sweatshirts printed with all the names that will eventually be on the memorial for $45 a piece. Any additional money donated to buy a sweatshirt will go to pay for construction of the memorial, Baker said.
Since MTN News first heard about Baker's story in October, he said he's sold around 75 sweatshirts delivered to orders all across the country and has so far made $2,800 of his 18,000 goal.
“It has been such a humbling experience. I’ve had Gold Star families reach out to me saying that they can’t wait to come from Minnesota as soon as we get it done and have an opening ceremony. The community support and faith and belief in the project that we’re doing has been awesome," Baker said.
While the support has been great, Baker asked for his customers' patience as he sends out the sweatshirts. To get the best deal, he buys in batches of 50, then has to send them to the printer, before shipping them out to customers.
When it comes to his goal, Baker said, "With the strong military community and just appreciation of military service members in the great state of Montana, I have no doubt we’ll be reaching that hopefully by this time next year when we do our second annual at the Iron Den.”
Other than Baker's website, there is only one place where you can buy one of the hoodies in person: Iron Den in Billings, located at 100 24th St. W.