DENVER (CBS4) — A Denver veteran is hoping to inspire other American heroes by taking on one of the toughest challenges in the world. Evan Stratton, along with his three veteran teammates, will soon begin the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.
They’re the only Americans this year to take part in the 3,000-mile row from Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean. Their team is named Fight Oar Die.
Stratton is looking forward to the next two months of rowing, but ten years ago, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever have use of both arms again.
“I was 19-years-old and I wanted to be a Marine, and be active and be physical, do my job. In an instance, all that stuff stopped,” said Stratton.
Stratton’s military transition team was ambushed in Iraq. For two years, parts of his arm, shoulder and back were paralyzed.
“I didn’t reintegrate well at all. My transition was tough,” said Stratton.
Stratton said he struggled to find his identity when transitioning back to civilian life. He overcame his challenges, now he’s taking on a new one to inspire other veterans.
According to their website, Fight Oar Die promises to “show veterans that they can do anything they want; their lives did not end with their military service; they have endured challenges that have enhanced their lives, and those experiences can be used to increase quality of life; to stop taking their lives and start living them.”
“Everybody has their own ocean to row. Everyone has to leave the safe harbor at some point and take on whatever they’re facing in life and row their own personal ocean,” explained Stratton.
Stratton said the Fight Oar Die team didn’t have any real rowing experience prior to taking on this challenge. However, this journey isn’t all about physical skill.
University of Denver students from the Graduate School of Professional Psychology’s program in military psychology are helping the team with the mental health aspect of their training.
“This row is just as much a psychological mental game as it is a physical game,” explained Ethan Bannar, a DU grad student working with Fight Oar Die.
Bannar has been helping the veterans with handling conflict, team dynamics, guided energy — even sleeping in short shifts. Bannar, a service-member himself, plans to pursue a career in military psychology.
“We want veterans to get out and pursue whatever is is they want to put their mind and their energy to,” said Bannar. “Every single person is rowing their own metaphorical ocean.”
You can follow Fight Oar Die’s journey, donate to their cause, and learn more about their mission here.