Carnell Martin was traveling to Baghdad in 2003 when his convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device. He was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
“I was living on adrenaline but not knowing that I was concussed to the severity where I should have been evaced,” said Martin, a Marine infantryman who served during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was again in close proximity to an IED in 2007, causing a second concussion. After being medically discharged, Catch a Lift Fund was exactly what Martin needed.
“I knew how to workout. I knew what a gym was. I needed that other intangible piece of it, you know – family bonding. The support. The community, the outreach,” Martin said. “I needed that piece again. I needed a team.”
The Catch a Lift Fund helps post-9/11, combat-injured veterans recover physically and mentally from wounds sustained while serving. Lynn Coffland established the fund in 2010 in honor of her brother, Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, who served with the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion out of Fort Meade, Maryland. Chris Coffland enlisted in the Army after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He died Nov. 13, 2009, after suffering wounds from an IED.
“When I found out, I was of course devastated,” Lynn Coffland said. “He was my dearest friend and brother, and I started getting a lot of men and women that he was with that reached out and talked about his love of fitness.”
After her brother’s death, Lynn Coffland began working with veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where she learned they did not have a way to heal holistically. So she started offering gym memberships and home-gym equipment to combat-injured veterans.
Catch a Lift was built on “four core pillars,” according to Lynn Coffland, that are intertwined – nutrition, fitness, emotional wellness, and community. Some former participants have gone on to become mentors, including Martin, who currently work with up to 20 veterans.
“When I meet those veterans that have been where I’ve been and started where I started and just listen to their story, [they] remind me of myself,” said Martin, who was in the Marines for 30 years. “And the struggle that they’re going through I’ve been through.”
When veterans enter the program, they are interviewed by a certified fitness coach and nutritionist, then go through a 12-week training program that establishes fitness and nutrition habits. After the 12 weeks, if the veteran was successful, he or she chooses a gym membership anywhere in the country or home gym equipment.
“Catch a Lift’s biggest goal is that our veterans have a healthy future and that they take ownership of that healthy future,” Lynn Coffland said.
Martin’s experience solidifies that, as he said Catch a Lift has not only benefited himself, but also his family. They know he’s “in good hands” and being supported.
“Seeing me happy makes them happy,” Martin said.
And as the fund grows, Lynn Coffland said she hopes to expand awareness beyond the veteran community.
“I also would like to put our community out into the civilian world, either at schools or in civic groups to inspire men and women to see what you can do when you overcome obstacles and what a true hero looks like,” she said.
As for Martin, three wars and six combat tours later, he said he is “lucky and thankful” for his military career.
“With all the trauma and all the lives lost and all, I’m just thankful for having a family in Catch a Lift and an outlet that I can call home,” he said.
For more on Catch a Lift Fund, visit https://catchaliftfund.org.Read comments