MILITARY

Veterans Show Sheer Grit in 'Tough Mudder' Challenge for Wounded Warriors

  • Tough Mudder competition 2011.

    Tough Mudder competition 2011.

  • Tough Mudder competition 2011.

    Tough Mudder competition 2011.

Race through mud-filled trenches, fire and waist-deep sludge and maneuver across oiled-up monkey bars and an electrified gauntlet. It may sound like training only top military personnel could complete, but you can earn the “Tough Mudder” badge of honor by completing this 12-mile obstacle course that benefits the Wounded Warriors Project.

About 20,000 participants will descend upon Raceway Park in New Jersey this weekend to participate in the Tough Mudder endurance challenge, the ultimate test of strength, grit, stamina and camaraderie.

One man who has already proven that he has these skills is Ed Afando, 41 , of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., a veteran who served in the Marines and Army National Guard.

Ed will compete as a member of the Wounded Warriors team in his honor organized by his best friend, Mark Chattin, and also made up of two other veterans and a civilian.

“It’s an honor to have people care enough to run themselves to the ground in this team event,” Afando told Foxnews.com.

Afando, father of two, hopes to be able to complete some of the mud-filled course but says unfortunately that may not be possible. Due to injuries from his military service, he needs a service dog named Arnie to get around.

In September 2001, Afando was hurt while working with canine recovery teams at the WTC South Tower, as his respirator failed. Afando has since had physical and mental troubles, suffering from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Prior to his injury in 2008, Afando developed tumors and says at one point he was in a very dark place for a long time.

In addition to his wife, Jennifer, and two young children, Anthony and Adriana, Afando says his involvement in the Wounded Warriors Project played a huge role in his recovery.

“The project showed me that I could work through my injuries," he said.

A couple of years ago, he got involved with the Wounded Warriors Project and has taken part in several programs including Warriors in Motion which teaches lifelong healthful living through sports, outdoor activity, and recreation, and investigates how the physical self is tied to the emotional/psychological self, and how state-of-mind can affect the physical body.

“They gave me a new perspective on PTSD. You try to do the best you can,” Afando said.
Afando now is a mentor to other wounded warriors helping to organize events for others suffering through the feelings of stress, anxiety and other emotions veterans have when reintegrating into society.

“It is a positive reinforcement for me and for other warriors to see me working through my injuries and getting involved.”

The Tough Mudder events are meant to spur camaraderie. Only 78 percent of participants finish, and with a course designed to be impossible to complete individually, 80 percent of participants register with a team. Individuals help each other through trenches, log bog jumps, waist deep sludge and a 15-foot jump into a lake. They crawl through pipes and make their away across nets and up a muddy mountain track.

The race cannot be called boring. It is a visual event for participants and supporters.

If participants really want to prove how "tough" they are, permanent ink tattoos are offered at the finish line of the Tough Mudder logo. To date, more than 1,000 participants have been branded with the tat.

Tough Mudder is the largest supporter of Wounded Warrior Project and its mission to assist severely injured veterans. To date, Tough Mudder and its participants have raised more than $2 million for Wounded Warrior Project. For more information, visit www.toughmudder.com.