You might never look at Casey Elder and think “veteran.” You might not even think “athlete,” but she is both.
Elder, of Billings, was a member of the Montana Army National Guard for six years. She was in the military police and stationed in Iraq from May 2003 to May 2004. Elder suffered nerve damage in her wrist, elbow and shoulder when her Humvee was blown up in Baghdad. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and was awarded the Purple Heart.
This Saturday, Elder will tap roles of both veteran and athlete as she heads up the WOD for Warriors fundraiser to benefit two charities: the national Team Red, White & Blue, and local American Legion Andrew Pearson Post 117.
WOD for Warriors (“WOD” is the CrossFit term for “Workout of the Day”) is hosted by Alternative Athletics, a local CrossFit gym. The fundraiser is an annual event and, up until last year, was known as Fight Gone Bad.
The new name and slightly revamped workout inspired Elder to make the event bigger and involve more of the community.
“I wanted to make it more public and easily accessible,” she said. “Only CrossFit athletes can do the workout, but it’s a family-friendly event, so everyone can come and watch.”
Last year, CrossFit athletes raised about $5,000 to compete in the event. So far, 21 athletes have signed up for Saturday’s WOD for Warriors, and Elder is expecting more entries in the next few days. The athletes have already raised close to $3,000.
Starting at 10 a.m. on the playground of Broadwater Elementary, athletes will tackle the 17-minute workout in several heats. The WOD will consist of three rounds of one minute of as many air squats as possible; one minute of kettlebell swings; one minute of box jumps; one minute of bare bar push press; one minute of burpees (squat thrust); and one minute of rest.
It’s taken Elder several months to coordinate WOD for Warriors project, and both charities are close to her heart.
Team RWB promotes physical and psychological healing for wounded veterans through community events such as 5K runs and triathlons that encourage physical fitness.
“When you leave the military, you go from this built-in family to nothing,” Elder said. “So there can be an instant bond from becoming a team member.”
American Legion Post 117 is named for U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Pearson, who was killed in action on April 30, 2008, in Iraq. Pearson was a graduate of Senior High who served one tour of duty in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq.
Legion Post 117 was created about a year ago, said Elder, who is a service officer for the post. She said the group is made up of mostly younger veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We are kind of trying to revamp the American Legion a bit,” Elder said. “For us, the draw of the service is still there. Anything a veteran might need, we get called for — shoveling snow or mowing lawns for families of veterans.”
The 160 members meet once a month and usually have one or two activities going on. The post does other fundraisers to help families facing financial issues such as eviction or having utilities turned off. Elder said Legion Post 117 has helped out with some “heavy lifting” for large projects at ZooMontana. The members also participate in the airport arrivals and departures of fellow military.
“Post 117 is helping me out a lot to put on this event,” said Elder, who is working on a master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. She plans to take her experience as a veteran full circle and work with PTSD and traumatic brain injury patients.