LU MURPH Challenge: Students honor veterans through fitness

Every year for Veterans Day, individuals across the U.S. do the Murph Challenge to honor the sacrifices of those who served in our armed forces. The challenge is a test of physical and mental endurance that began in remembrance of fallen Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy. This year, for the first time, the challenge came to Liberty University. 

One of Liberty’s student-led groups, LU MURPH, hosted its first LU MURPH Challenge fundraiser Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields. 

LU MURPH partnered with the National Center for Healthy Veterans to raise awareness that 23 veterans commit suicide every day.

The event began with worship music, the national anthem and messages from Lynchburg Mayor Stephanie Reed, President Dondi Costin, Maj. Gen. Robert F. Dees and Dr. David Wheeler. The competition then started the competitive heat, with noncompetitive heats one and two following after.

Competitors completed a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 air squats, followed by another one-mile run with some participants also wearing weighted vests.

The challenge offered several raffle items, including gift cards, a mini Keurig machine, fitness endurance supplements and a business Bible. Organizations like Complete Health, Homes for Heroes and the American Red Cross, which supported the competition’s cause, set up booths around the field that attendees could visit.

The event’s mission verse, 1 John 3:18, was printed on the front of the program’s brochure: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.” The brochure also featured the LU MURPH team’s motto: “Never out of the fight.”

LU MURPH held this challenge in honor of Murphy, a Navy SEAL who did not make it home from Afghanistan. Nick Salonites, a senior at Liberty and the event director of this challenge, said events like this are important because they honor veterans who have died and show support for those who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Without our veterans, we don’t have any of this as a country; we can’t live in a free society,” Salonites said. “And these men and women sacrifice a lot for us, and we just want to raise awareness for veteran suicide, but also connect the Liberty student body with the veteran community because I think there’s a lot of value in having our age group connect with veterans.”

Salonites started working on this event three years ago and believed that Liberty was a place where he could show students why supporting veterans is so important. He said students should be involved with events like this to stand behind America’s veterans, whether they compete or just attend to support those who do.

“Come out, get a workout in, but really just support vets,” Salonites said. “If they can be out, wherever in the world, sacrificing themselves and their lives for us, why can’t we come out for 20 minutes on maybe a cold Saturday morning and do something to honor them and raise money for them?”

Josh Morris, a sophomore at Liberty, participated in the noncompetitive heat while also cheering on a member of his hall. He said he had heard about the challenge a few years ago, and when he heard Liberty was hosting it, he wanted to support the cause.

“I think it’s just good to support the veterans. I feel like veterans kind of get overlooked,” Morris said. “Especially by students, we don’t really think about those who really protect our country (and) defend us.”

Freshman Isabel Larson attended the event to encourage her friend who was competing, and she said she enjoys coming to events like LU MURPH to see people cheer on others.

“I love this, and seeing people support one another really just motivates people to want to do more, to go one more and to further their experience in all this,” Larson said.

At the end of the challenge, Salonites thanked everyone for coming and said that the event had raised about $39,000. He urged everyone to keep supporting veterans and to remember Murphy’s well-known saying: “You’re never out of the fight.”

McKenzie is a news reporter for the Liberty Champion

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