Suplee was among the more than 2,000 participants in last weekend’s Tough Mudder event, a regional obstacle course race conceived as an ultimate endurance test. Beyond participating to test himself, Suplee and his teammates on Team Rickshaw took part in the event to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).
The 32 obstacles presented more than a challenge to stamina and strength, they were an affront to fortitude. Running the course is a way for sport enthusiasts to find out if they have the will to continue to overcome difficult obstacles long after their tanks are empty.
Each obstacle is separated by a one-third mile stretch that can eventually become the most treacherous part of the event, as Suplee discovered the hard way. Toward the end of the event, any stopping could result in muscles tightening or outright locking, not so much cramping as rebelling against the hours of punishment they’ve taken. Each time he had to stop later in the race it took increasingly greater effort to bully his muscles into complying.
This was a particular challenge as he and the hundreds of others stood in the mud awaiting their turn at the electrocution obstacle. Live wires with charges about the strength of an electric horse fence hung in dozens of rows just inches apart. To get past it, Mudders have to jump through the curtain of wires, crawl under them for about 10 feet and then jump through another curtain.
Some of those who had reached the end of their endurance walked along the sides, opting out as was allowed. Others, possibly those well past their endurance, just walked through the entire length rather than fall to the ground and crawl.
For Suplee and Team Rickshaw, however, there was more at stake than just an endurance test. The team participated as an homage to Sgt. First Class Daniel A. Suplee Aug. 3, 2006. Daniel, Paul’s brother, was serving as a Cavalry Scout during Operation Enduring Freedom, assigned to the 153rd Cavalry Squadron, Ocala, Florida National Guard, Fla. deployed in Afghanistan. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60/8414.
After having been invited by friends to participate in the Tough Mudder, Suplee suggested running in Daniel’s name and the rest of the team couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to spend Veterans Day Weekend. In the simplest way possible it was a way of demonstrating through the acceptance of a punishing task, the commitment it takes to put yourself in harm’s way for a cause.
Although it is run as a for-profit event, the Tough Mudder attracts many teams of former and even current soldiers and nearly all of them run for the WWP. Last year Mudders raised more than $600,000 for the project.
Founded in response to the increasing number of veterans who return home in need of long-term medical care, WWP acts as a support system for those trying to recover from their injuries. For example, although the government will pay for a veteran’s medical expenses unseen expenses and needs remain unmet.
Should a family member have to quit working to provide care, for example, there is little government support.
The need for WWP grew out of the fact that today’s better body armor allows more soldiers to survive wounds. According to WWP for every U.S. soldier killed in World Wars I and II, there were 1.7 soldiers wounded. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, for every U.S. soldier killed, seven are wounded.
Daniel succumbed to a traumatic brain injury. Suplee said had his brother survived he would have needed more intensive care than could be provided under veteran’s programs. His participation and continued fundraising is particularly in recognition of the fact that the funding is still needed for someone else’s family member who survived.
This year Team Rickshaw raised nearly $5,000 and hopes to raise $10,000 for next year’s event. To find out more about the project or how to donate click here.