Gym Helps Combat Veterans


by Miranda Reynolds
Delta Digital News Service

PARAGOULD – Organizations across Northeast Arkansas work with veterans to get them more involved; gym memberships give some another option.

CrossFit Cathal, located in Paragould and owned by Randy Vest, reaches out to veterans in the surrounding communities to help those in need. The gym has been supportive of nonprofit organizations since opening.

CrossFit Cathal joined forces with Rivers of Recovery to reach out to more veterans. Rivers of Recovery works to take veterans on trips at no cost to the veteran. Vest and Levi Crawford, Rivers of Recovery’s marketing director, knew each other from a previous encounter.

They met in 2009 during a tour in Afghanistan. During the one-year tour, Crawford suffered serious injury from direct and indirect fire. It caused him to lose vision in one eye. This caused Crawford to become involved in Rivers of Recovery.

“Upon coming home and transitioning from military life to hospital life, to civilian life, is when I was fortunate enough to go on a trip with Rivers of Recovery.  It helped me a great deal in a very hard and uncertain time in my life. After the trip, I stayed in contact with the organization and decided that it was my duty to help the organization and provide other combat veterans with the experience and help I was to grateful to receive,” Crawford said.

Vest’s decision to join forces with Rivers of Recovery came easily to him due to the local aspect of the organization.

“The reason I chose Rivers of Recovery is because it supported local veterans. These are people that are walking around in your community, they’re actually veterans I served with,” Vest said.

CrossFit Cathal gives veterans an opportunity to work with other veterans in a more personal way, said level one instructor Caroline Jarrett.

“It’s more personal this way because every class has a coach and you find your members coming to you with issues going on in their lives whereas in a regular gym, there’s somebody probably manning the door and they’re letting you do whatever you want to do,” Jarrett said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects many veterans. Vest said CrossFit Cathal can be one way to battle it.

“People deal with their PTSD differently: some seek counseling, others have hobbies, some people come in here and just want to sling some weight and breathe heavy, get it out of their system. That’s their therapy,” Vest said.

The partnership between the two allows Crawford to see veterans focus on their personal health.

“A goal I am already seeing being accomplished is providing our past participants a place welcoming of veterans to socialize and focus on their physical health which plays a large role in a person’s mental health,” Crawford said.

In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, a total of 252,279 veterans reside in Arkansas. CrossFit Cathal, Rivers of Recovery and numerous other organizations continue to serve veterans in the natural state.