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Brotherhood Above Everything Else

By Robert “Pip” Piparo, Columnist | July 01, 2017 | NATIONAL

Story No. 060117102

"Brotherhood doesn’t mean turnout coats, kilts and t-shirts. Brotherhood is men and women sweating and suffering together: whether on the drill ground, the fire ground, or in the gym. It means 'I’m going to do whatever I can to be the best for them, for my crew, and for myself.' It means no longer tolerating incompetence in tactics, skills or physical ability." -James Keegan, Cherry Hill Fire Department

Firefighter James Keegan of Cherry Hill Fire Department sent me this quote after the 2017 Fire Department Instructor's Conference in Indianapolis, IN. Jimmy just finished competing in the 'Firefighter Throwdown' and this was his biggest take away from his time spent there. Of course, I totally agree with his sentiment but recently, I was able experience it first-hand at an event that just so happened to have been held at Jimmy’s department.

Thousands upon thousands of firefighters, police officers, soldiers, athletes, first responders and civilians from all across America participated in the ‘Memorial Day Murph’ workout over Memorial Day weekend. This workout was created to honor Lt. Michael Murphy, who was killed in action on June 8, 2005. His life was memorialized in the movie “Lone Survivor”. The workout consists of a 1-mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats and another 1-mile run, all while wearing a 20-lb. weight vest.

This workout can be scaled for all abilities, however it’s meant to be a challenge. It’s meant to push you to a new level. Lieutenant Murphy did this workout weekly in preparation to become a Navy Seal. We honor him and all other service members who made the ultimate sacrifice by participating in this workout and pushing ourselves to new physical limits.

I’ve participated in ‘Murph’ for several years, but this year was different. I was invited to participate with the members of the Cherry Hill Fire Department at one of their stations. They are an official ‘Murph’ location each year. I’ve worked out there before, but I’d never experienced anything like this. There were about 30 of us total, including firefighters, police officers and family members, most of whom I had never met before until that day. But none of that mattered, because we were all there for one reason; to honor the fallen.

Hanging on the whiteboard in the station where the workout was written, also hung pictures of New Jersey service members who were killed in action in various wars. Before we started the workout, names of the fallen were read aloud. Their names stuck with me on that first mile and through several rounds of the workout. During the workout, I looked around a lot, watching everyone work through their rounds. I couldn’t help but think how amazing this was. I was at a firehouse, in New Jersey, doing one of the most grueling, yet meaningful workouts possible. I also thought about Jimmy’s quote and just how true it felt in this moment.

We throw the word “brother” around in the fire service daily. Brotherhood is written everywhere, but do we truly understand and embody its meaning? It’s a topic I never thought physical fitness would lead me to ponder. But it did, and participating in ‘Murph,' alongside so many other emergency responders, really made its meaning clear to me. It's way more than wearing a uniform, or putting a sticker on your car. Just showing up doesn’t cut it anymore. The job that we signed up for is killing us. We are losing too many firefighters to health related issues to keep denying that fact anymore. A cultural change needs to occur, and it needs to occur now.

I’m sure that by this point most people are saying, “there’s no way I can finish ‘Murph'.’” Guess what? Chances are you’re right! Actually, no one should just attempt a workout like 'Murph' straight off the couch. Just like no one should run into a structure fire without months of training. This is where the cultural shift needs to occur. Our culture needs to adopt physical fitness as part of our daily routine. Just like checking the truck or making the beds. We need to take care of the most important piece of equipment we have: our body. It won’t be easy, I’m not saying it is. But what about our job is easy?

Our mission is to protect lives and property. We owe it to ourselves, to the citizens we serve and to those we serve with to start putting more effort into our physical fitness. ‘Murph’ will take place next year, on Memorial Day weekend, at locations around the country. I challenge you to start training now, to make completing this workout your goal. You have just under one year to physically and mentally prepare yourself for this challenge.

I very rarely make guarantees in the fitness world, but this is one I’m willing to put down in writing. Whatever your current physical state is today, if you put forth the work, you will be ready one year from today to tackle this beast of a workout. During your prep year you will not only be helping yourself, but also those you're training with. Your sense of pride and brotherhood will increase, as I’ve seen with firefighters worldwide. The goal is to complete this workout, but you should set smaller goals along the way. Before long, your regimen will become routine.

As you adopt this new fitness lifestyle, start to note how you feel overall. Start to note how your commitment to the fire service grows. When you take the time and put work back into yourself, you start to realize just how good you really do feel. Having your “brothers” and “sisters” doing it alongside you is just icing on the cake. It’s time to reverse the negative trend that is plaguing our services and bring pride back. Pride in ourselves, pride in our company, pride in our departments and pride in our services.

As always, should you have any questions, feel free to email me at pip@555fitness.com. Also, feel free to share your stories of transformation along the way. You never know who you may inspire tomorrow from the work you are putting in today!

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.