June 6th is a momentous, and sadly violent, day in American history.
The Battle of Memphis, fought in the Mississippi River on June 6th, 1862, in the second year of the American Civil War, still the most grievous war in American history, opened the door to Vicksburg. Vicksburg was one of the two turning points, along with Gettysburg, of the Civil War, as it effectively split the Confederate States in half.
The Battle of Belleau Wood, fought on June 6th, 1918, on French soil tortured by four years of World War I, was the bloodiest day in US Marine Corps history. Over 1,000 Marines perished attempting to to take the woods from the Germans. It would eventually take over two more weeks of close quarter combat and thousands more dead to drive the Germans from the the Belleau Wood.
The Battle of Midway was perhaps the single most important turning point in the Pacific Theater of World War II and certainly the first American victory against Imperial Japan. On June 6th, the fourth of Japan’s six carriers was sunk, effectively ending Japanese offensive capabilities in the Pacific for the remainder of the war.
However, June 6th looms large in the American collective consciousness due to the invasion of Normandy in 1944. D-Day. My vocabulary and words fail me in the face of the American experience at Omaha and Utah beaches, for, in all honesty, I cannot adequately imagine what it was like on that bleak morning exactly 65 years ago.
Perhaps the most important trait for a man or woman to possess is character. Character is what enabled the men wading ashore on June 6th, 1944, their breath in gasps, sobbing and screaming, warm piss clouding the cold Atlantic waters, bodies turning the shorebreak pink, the rat-a-tat-tat of the German machines guns drowning out everything except for the thunderous pounding of their own hearts and the angry wasp zip and buzz of the killing fire, the fate of the world as they knew it on their shoulders, to push forward. It is always character that allows mankind to rise above and not sink into madness or oblivion when confronted with an insane reality, stark and terrifying in its savagery. Thermopylae, Adrianople, Verdun, Stalingrad. These great names all have left massive echoes in their wake, yet the men and women who experienced them first hand must have had that combination of iron will, strength of heart, integrity, and humor that we collectively term character.
I am sure that this is an overly sobering post for a CrossFit blog. And I can only assume that many are perhaps a little vexed that I could, in any way, tie a fitness methodology to something as momentously resonant as D-Day. To be sure, I am not. However, I am drawn back to the term and concept of character.
Not all waded ashore on June 6th. Some broke and ran, as did many at Stalingrad. Many at Verdun went mad, even to the point of immolation. Contrary to legend, there was a retreat at Thermopylae, although not by all. At Adrianople, men cast aside their weapons and screamed in horror at the cauldron of death into which they were forced, packed so tightly that the dead could not fall to the ground.
Is there are a training ground for character? A place to learn and develop it? Hopefully many. And here, amid fitness and strength, health and performance, we come to what may be the main benefit of something as hard as CrossFit. The development of character.
(With respect and thoughts for those who fell on this day many years ago–Sam.)
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10, 8, 6
200m Run after each triplet.
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