Man doing WOD 'CHAD 1000X' step ups

Honouring Chad: The Epic Veterans Day Hero WOD 'CHAD 1000X'

6 min read

|

16 Oct 2023

"When Chad took his life, he had everything to live for: myself and our children, extended family, his fellow brothers and our community."


On October 29, 2018, Navy Seal Chad Wilkinson took his own life due to the effects of numerous deployments, several TBIs, blast wave injuries and PTSD. His loss was felt by all within the veteran's community and further highlighted an ongoing problem.

Despite mourning his loss, his wife, Sara, was determined to maintain his legacy, honour his 21-year service to his country, raise awareness for veterans' mental health and prevent more cases like Chad among veterans.

That's when the 'CHAD 1000X' Hero WOD was founded.

Every year, people from various fitness backgrounds come together on Memorial Day to complete the challenging 'Murph' workout, honoring the bravery of Lt. Michael Murphy. But this Veterans Day, another Hero WOD deserves your attention.

This simple workout carries a significant mission, allowing everyone to participate, regardless of their fitness level, and pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice but are no longer with us.

Despite the decline in veteran suicide rates in recent years, it remains significantly higher than that of non-veteran adults, with 31.6 per 100,000 veterans compared to 16.8 per 100,000 non-veteran adults, according to the latest statistics from the VA.

The CHAD 1000X initiative is committed to positively impacting this issue and providing much-needed support to our veterans' mental health.

Are you ready to participate this Veteran's Day and pay tribute to those who've selflessly defended our freedom?

The History Behind 'CHAD 1000X'

Chad Wilkinson's story is one of triumph and sacrifice. Originally from Virginia, Chad chose to enlist in the Navy, just like his father and uncle, who were both SEALs. 

He left college early to serve his country and graduated from BUD/s in 1996 before completing over 20 years of active duty with Seal Team 8 and Seal Team 6.

Chad earned many awards and decorations throughout his service, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Valor, Navy Commendation Medal, and numerous others, for his exceptional bravery and dedication.

Chad told his wife, Sara, it was his dream to become a SEAL at the tender age of 13 when the pair met on base at a DoD high school, but as his career progressed to becoming part of the most elite specialist operators in the world, Sara felt there was a change in Chad after an endless string of deployments.

Upon returning home from work one day, Sara found a "tired" and "stressed" version of Chad - who she said boasted "glassed" eyes - sitting on their bed before the pair fell asleep.

When Sara woke up, Chad was gone. Initially thinking he had gone to work or for a ride, a knock at the door from the cops changed everything, informing Sara that Chad Wilkinson had taken his own life, shattering her idea that "he was unbreakable."

Sara made it her mission from that moment to bring the topic of veterans' mental health suicide awareness into the limelight, and after teaming up with GORUCK and owner Jason McCarthy - who deeply resonated with Chad's story - the Veterans Day Chad 1000X Workout was born in 2020.

The virtual fundraiser was widely promoted on GORUCK's website and social media platforms, utilising the hashtag #CHAD1000X, and people took notice; the initiative garnered participation from over 4,500 individuals across the globe. 

Participants showed their support by ordering CHAD1000X patches and t-shirts, completing a hero workout in unity with Chad, and remembering those who have lost their lives to suicide. By the end, $104,125 was raised and donated to brain and mental health programs funded by the Navy SEAL Foundation.

The following year, 5500 people took part and $122,000 was raised, and the numbers continue to rise with each passing year.

What is the 'Chad 1000X' workout?

To ensure inclusivity, the workout itself is designed to be accessible to everyone who wishes to attempt it. There are three load and box height tiers, ranging from beginner to expert. 

Participants can choose to complete all the repetitions individually or team up with a partner or group to distribute the step-ups amongst themselves.

For a time, 1000X step-ups are completed as a team, partner, or individual.

3 OPTIONS:

  • Slick/Beginner // No rucksack. You pick the height of the step-ups.

  • Standard/Intermediate // 30#/20# rucksack. You choose the height of the step-ups.

  • Expert // 45# rucksack. Use a 20" box for box step-ups.

  • Simple in nature but brutally enduring, 'CHAD 1000X' involves completing 1,000 step-ups while wearing a weighted rucksack, a Hero WOD inspired by Chad himself, who used to do 1,000 step-ups with a 45-pound pack on a 20" box as part of his training for climbing Mt. Aconcagua.

    At Chad's funeral, his wife mentioned this training routine, prompting Dave Castro, a former Navy SEAL and Director of the CrossFit Games, to organise a workout for the Veteran and CrossFit communities to celebrate Chad's life and remember his legacy.

    According to Sara, in an interview with Men's Health, because Chad's death was by suicide, the step-ups poetically symbolize mental health. Throughout the 1,000 step-ups, participants may experience physical pain and moments of self-doubt, reflecting the challenges that one may face while alone with their thoughts.

    It serves as a reminder to persist, push forward, and, as Chad used to say, "uncomfortable can't last forever."

    Wilkinson emphasises that this initiative is not about self-promotion. While it is heartwarming to have people share Chad's name and story, the intention is to shed light on the more significant issue of veteran suicide.

    Witnessing individuals from around the world come together on or around Veterans Day serves as a visual reminder that veterans are not alone in their struggles, and neither are the families they leave behind.

    How do I participate in the 'CHAD 1000X' challenge?

    Participating in the 'Chad 1000X' workout is easier than you think:

    Step 1: Sign up for CHAD 1000X by donating and/or pre-ordering the tee/crop and patch bundle.

    Step 2: Download Dave Castro's training plan and begin your journey towards 1,000 step-ups. Feel free to share your progress, photos, and videos on social media, tagging @goruck and using the hashtag #CHAD1000X.

    Step 3: Take on the challenge at any time on or around Veterans Day, joining individuals worldwide to complete the workout.

    This year, the event will be officially hosted in three cities across the country, including Jacksonville, FL (November 11), San Diego (November 11), and Virginia Beach (November 11), as well as Landstuhl in Germany.

    A source of inspiration

    The Veterans Day' CHAD 1000X' Hero WOD is not limited to the Veteran, CrossFit, and GORUCK communities; it is open to everyone. Chad, the oldest of his siblings and an overachiever, was exceptional at everything he did.

    However, he struggled to seek help, even though his loved ones would have done anything for him.

    Too many lives are being lost, and many individuals are grappling with their battles. The belief is that physical health is crucial to mental health, and everyone needs someone to lean on.

    Therefore, 'Chad1000X' can serve as a source of inspiration. By mentioning his name, honouring his story, and prioritising quality time with friends and loved ones, we can live fully, recognizing that tomorrow is never promised.

    Although the often-quoted statistic of 22 veteran suicides per day may vary, it remains a disturbing trend that cannot be adequately addressed solely through funding. According to McCarthy, the solution lies in bringing people together and preventing isolation that can lead to loneliness, depression, or anxiety.

    Both Sara and McCarthy observe how the symptoms of mental health issues are often hidden due to fear or shame. Sara hopes that discussing this matter openly will normalise it, as mental health issues do not discriminate.

    While Sara appreciates that Chad's memory will endure through the GORUCK Chad 1000X workout, she emphasises that the focus is on current veterans and their spouses facing immense pain. The intention is to prevent others from experiencing this tragedy through any means necessary.

    To register for the GORUCK Veterans Day CHAD 1000X Workout, click here.

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