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Remember Them

By Craig R. Waters

God and the Soldier, all men adore

In time of danger and not before.

When the danger is passed, and all things righted,

God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.

The poem, scratched by an anonymous soldier on the wall of a sentry box on the island of Gibraltar, was recited by President John F. Kennedy in a 1962 address to the members of the Army’s 1st Armored Division.

The years have passed, but nothing has changed.

This year, as we once more take note of Memorial Day, established in 1868 in remembrance of those who’ve died in the service of their country, the men and women returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan once more are slighted. They may have this day, but, that notwithstanding, they also have little in the way of public acknowledgement, let alone appreciation; difficulty in readjusting to life stateside; a recession that limits their opportunities for employment, education, and home ownership; underfunded and, often, poorly managed federal veterans agencies; and, in all too many cases, dramatic physical or psychological needs.

A while ago, at an IHRSA convention, I wound up talking about this disturbing situation with a club owner who was, as it happens, also an industry supplier. We speculated about what our industry could possibly do to make things better, have a positive impact on the lives of these selfless individuals who’ve already done their part. We regretted the fact that, at the time, it seemed that nothing was being done.

Well, something is being done.

For example: 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide, Inc., the innovative San Ramon, California-based chain, has invited all of the members of the military community to work out for free at any of its 400-plus facilities over this Memorial Day weekend. Carl Liebert III, the company’s CEO and, himself, a Navy veteran, says, “Memorial Day is particularly special to me. We’re proud to show our respect to those who serve our great nation by dedicating this special weekend to them.”

24 Hour and Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc., the Venice, California-company that’s the force behind Spinning, as well as an IHRSA associate member, also participate actively in Ride 2 Recovery, a national effort that helps fund mental and physical rehabilitation programs for the military that focus on cycling.

Other clubs and other companies have launched their own initiatives, some of which I’ve heard about, and others that I haven’t yet learned about.

So, yes, something is being done.

But the current members of the military and the nation’s veterans deserve so much more than individual, short-term expressions of gratitude and offers of modest assistance, no matter how well-intentioned and well-executed they might be. They deserve, to my way of thinking, a sophisticated, ongoing, and national program—provided by our industry—that does all it can to promote their health, fitness, and happiness.

They have served us. Let us now, if we possibly can, serve them

To learn more about the challenges being faced by the members of our military, log on to the Website of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of Americans,

To see some of their faces and read their stories about transitioning to civilian life, click here.

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