By Daniel Moore and Riley Johnson
Leather-clad veterans sat atop roaring Harley Davidsons in the Valley of the Sun Cemetery Monday. The American Legion Riders straddled their bikes from the opening colors presentation through the booming 21-gun salute, dove release and taps.
An hour later and a few miles up the road, nearly a dozen exercise enthusiasts gathered to hear Dairus Barnes instruct them about another kind of “21-Gun Salute”: pull-ups, box jumps, fireman carry squats, box jumps and pull-ups. Twenty-one repetitions of each.
These two very different scenes in Chandler, Ariz., marked two very different Memorial Day celebrations. Each had its own message, but they shared a common purpose: Honor America’s armed forces and veterans.
“It’s about community,” said Anne-Marie Chun, watching her husband, Army veteran Daniel Chun, struggle with hoisting his workout partner onto his shoulders. It makes all the difference in moving forward, she said, to have support when re-entering civilian life.
Barnes coordinated the event, which was introduced nationally by Team Red, White and Blue, a Michigan-based nonprofit designed to connect veterans to their community through physical and social activities.
Barnes, an Army chaplain and owner of CrossFit Crew, joined the Army in January 2005.
In a nearly hour-long workout, participants had to “pay for their memory,” he said.
The men and women — and even some children — who struggled through pull-ups and fireman carry squats made a personal sacrifice that approached the sacrifice of America’s armed forces and veterans, Barnes said. He plans to organize similar events for Sept. 11 and Veterans Day as well as Memorial Day next year.
Tom Will, commander of American Legion Post 35 in Chandler, asked the crowd to remember the is more than a holiday.
“Remembering our fallen once a year is not enough,” he said. “The widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children remember them every day.”