In January of 2014 I started working with fellow U.S. Army Veteran SPC Matthew Hayes who was wounded overseas while deployed to Afghanistan. Matt was struggling at the time with smoking, drinking and taking many prescriptions.
I had never trained an amputee before so I wasn’t sure how it would go. Since I knew Matt before his injury I didn’t cut him any slack, just the same as if we were still in the Army. We obviously had to modify and adapt, but he honestly enjoyed it. He quit drinking, smoking and cut down significantly on his prescribed medication. He lost weight and was feeling whole again, realizing that he was still functional in life.
Shortly after, one of my high school friends, U.S. Air Force Veteran Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Daniel Neild, returned home. Dan Neild was injured in Iraq when his vehicle was hit with an Improvised Explosive Device, suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and later diagnosed with PTSD, being forced to medically retire from the U.S. Air Force.
We started to see the same improvements through Dan’s Crossfit journey. He was losing weight, gaining muscle, and his vertigo from his TBI was dissipating. His cognitive function and hand eye coordination improved immensely.
Between training my buddies Matt and Dan, I started to realize that CrossFit was not only good for treating my depression and PTSD; it was also doing wonders for them also. I talked to Dan about creating a non-profit organization that would pay for wounded and injured Veterans’ CrossFit memberships. We put our feet to the pavement and laid the groundwork for “Wounded Wodders”.
Daniel enlisted in the Air Force in June 2006 after graduating from Gilbert High School in Arizona. After graduating from the Security Forces Academy in November of 2006 he was assigned to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta Georgia as a Fire Team Member for the 822nd Security Forces Squadron. In May 2007 Sergeant Neild was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to the 16th Military Police Brigade as a tactical vehicle driver for Area Security Operations conducting over 110 combat missions and 11 combat sorties in support of Joint Task Force 134. On October 17th, 2007 while conducting a routine sweep on Main Supply Route Sioux Falls the lead vehicle Sergeant Neild was driving was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Staff Sergeant Neild began his second deployment in 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom working as a Fire Team Leader and an Emergency Medical Technician for the 113th Infantry Battalion leading over 150 combat patrols as a part of Task Force Bucca. In 2009 Sergeant Neild began his third deployment in direct support of Operation New Dawn. He worked under the 2nd of the 127th Infantry Battalion as a Fire Team Leader leading over 122 combat patrols in support of Joint Task Force 134. Upon return from his last deployment Sergeant Neild was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the IED in during his first deployment. He retired from the Air Force on December 28th of 2013.
7His decorations include: the Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
After the Air Force, Daniel studied Therapeutic Recreation at Arizona State University and worked for Sun Devil Fitness as the Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation Specialist. He represented the Air Force at the 2014 Warrior Games competing in track, field, and archery. Daniel also placed second at the 2014 Working Wounded Games and first at the 2015 Working Wounded Games. Daniel is the Co-Owner of CrossFit Forever Strong and holds the following certifications: CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, Crossroads Adaptive Coach, CrossFit Weightlifting, CrossFit Mobility, & CrossFit Gymnastics.