Veterans working together to regain metal and physical strength

TAMPA, Fla. — A group of military veterans who all have physical challenges say regular CrossFit classes are doing more than helping them stay in shape.

“It’s loud, it’s sweaty, it totally fits our personality,” said David Caras.

While most people get ready to work out by putting on their athletic shoes, Caras puts on his athletic leg.

He’s one of several adaptive military veterans training together weekly at Cigar City CrossFit.

“It definitely reminds me a lot about my service days,” said Eric Fife.

“You are in the trenches together, you are pushing through it together, you are not competing against each other — you are working to see how we can be the best we can be,” said Bill Hannigan.

Hannigan said following his catastrophic injury, leaving him a paraplegic, he was searching for an identity. He says he found it inside this circle of friends.

“People come up to me and say, ‘Oh you are in a wheel chair, I’m sorry,’ I’m not sorry — I’ve adapted, overcome and I’m kicking butt and taking names,” said Hannigan.

When Victor Prato returned from duty in a wheel chair, he says he felt trapped.

“It was really helpful to have guidance because I didn’t know how to exercise in a wheel chair,” said Prato.

These veterans say you can’t quit during this workout because you simply aren’t allowed.

“God forbid you fall out of your wheel chair, we are going to laugh at you and then say, ‘hey get back in it,’” said Hannigan.

On the surface, lifting weights and pulling on bungee cords may seem purely physical, but what it accomplishes mentally is just as important.

“This community allows me to have that kind of social aspect that I was lacking,” said Prato.

“It makes me not think about anything else I got going on in life,” said Fife.

“We feel pretty cool when we leave here,” said Caras.

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