When we think about the word Haze in its verb form, it often has negative connotations associated with it. Hazing is often ritual in college fraternities, athletics and to new or potential recruits in the military. My oldest brother would always refer to going for a run or working out as 'hazing himself'. My brother Joshua enlisted in the United States Marine Corps shortly after the attacks on 9-11.
I had the pleasure of seeing him graduate from boot camp at Parris Island and hear his anecdotes about his own experiences of being hazed, I was there in San Diego to greet him when he came off his plane from his deployment to Iraq and I was there the day he took his own life.
Since his death, my family has started a non-profit organization called Veteran Jam that raises awareness of the sacrifices and struggle of our Veterans (the JAM coming from my brothers initials, Joshua Alexander McArdle) If you've met me personally, you may have noticed it tattooed on my left wrist.
Since my brothers death, we've also met so many incredible individuals who know and can relate to what my brother went through, as well as my family in his time of need as well as in his loss. Our only wish is that we met them sooner.
One of those groups are the Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA). SDIA is a national non-profit organization that exists to engage, assist and empower the men & women who make up our nation’s military, law enforcement, fire & rescue, and EMS professions – society’s protectors, our “Sheep Dogs.” SDIA provides continued service opportunities and outdoor adventures which offer physical challenges and the camaraderie that is often missing after a shift or tour of duty ends.
While I cannot be a sheep dog myself, as I have not served in the military or a first responder profession, I do believe in what they stand for and am honored to know some of these incredible men and women. One of their yearly adventures is a Super Spartan Race in Black Mountain, NC. This race truly tests your perseverance, endurance and grit over 8-11 miles of mountain terrain and an abundance of crazy obstacles.
This year was my third race with the Sheep Dog Impact Assistance WNC Chapter. Each year, they bring Sheep Dogs together from various parts of the country to participate in this race. Competing alongside Single and Double Amputees and Men and Women with Traumatic Brain Injuries and other 'invisible wounds' really puts things into perspective. These individuals are truly some of the most amazing people I've had the pleasure of meeting.
I run this race each year for these men and women and for my brother Joshua. He'd have loved this group of people as my family does. For him, I haze myself. He'd have loved to see his sisters wading through mud, carrying sandbags up mountains and conquering their fear of heights (if only for one day). He'd have loved to of seen us through this course in body as I know he does each year in spirit.