Army Officer Completes Challenge In Support of Veterans, Mental Health
U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer David Nixon, recently embarked on the popular 4x4x48 Challenge in an effort to raise money and awareness for Boot Campaign. The Challenge itself was originally inspired by retired U.S. Navy SEAL and ultramarathon runner David Goggins and involves running four miles, every four hours within a 48-hour period.
We caught up with David after he completed the challenge to learn more about his story of service, the experience running, and his passion for showing gratitude for all who serve(d).
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, your career in the military and beyond, your family or any other fun facts!
I have been in the Army for 10 years and serve as a Field Artillery officer. I have had two deployments to Afghanistan and South Korea, along with previous assignments at Fort Sill, OK and Fort Drum, NY.
My wife Katelyn and I have been married for 12 years this August and we have two kids Mia (10) and Weston (5). My son Weston was born with a serious heart condition that required three surgeries (2 open heart) before he was 1 year old. Of course, I was gone to Korea at this time and Katelyn had to do the majority of it by herself. He is fine now.
We are currently assigned to Texas A&M University. I graduate next month with my Master of International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service. We have basically been “civilians” for two years while I get my degree. It is by far the best assignment for our family. We have gotten to travel, eat every meal together, and I have actually been there for family events. In our spare time we enjoy hiking and camping, traveling, and playing board games together as a family.
What inspired you to do the 4x4x48 Challenge and how did you feel after completing it?
I believe that people discover something about themselves when they embrace a challenge, prepare, and achieve things that are difficult. The mental toughness to run continuously for 48 hours far exceeds the physical strain. It was a great way to keep building my own mental toughness while highlighting what the Boot Campaign does to help both the physical and mental side of veterans.
I completed the 4 x 4 x 48 challenge last year andI’m also an avid supporter of the Lt Michael Murphy Foundation and have completed the MURPH Challenge every year since 2014.
It seems counterintuitive, but I don’t feel that running a lot prepares you for this specific challenge because the laps are only four miles. In the end, it is really a mental toughness game because the challenge, by nature, makes you tired and sore no matter your fitness level or regime. I do not recommend people try to do the 4x4x48 challenge without a specific trainup unless they are ultra-marathon runners.
During the challenge, there is quite a lot of down time between laps to stretch and recover during the day. The mental challenge comes during the night laps because you only get about two hours of sleep before you need to prepare for the next lap. Combine the lack of sleep with cold air that keeps your muscles stiff, it takes a lot of mental fortitude to keep pushing through the night.
My recommendation for anyone trying a longer challenge like the 4x4x48 is to make small, achievable goals to work towards. Rather than thinking “I’m hurting and I got 28 miles left” just focus on finishing each lap and getting more sleep or getting to sit down. Reward yourself once you accomplish a goal then make a new goal with a new reward.
How did you first hear about Boot Campaign? What inspired you to fundraise for our mission as part of your challenge?
I learned about Boot Campaign through Black Rifle Coffee Company, a veteran owned company that makes great coffee and I have been a club member of since 2016.
I believe passionately that the veteran community is a strong, vibrant group that still has an important story to share. Those who serve are frequently mislabeled and misunderstood as “damaged goods” because of the real struggles we have faced in the past and continue to deal with on a daily basis. Whether through Hollywood or the media, many Americans approach veterans as unpredictable and unstable. This isolation and victimization in the end perpetuates the problem as veterans who struggle have no one to turn to in a population that does not understand.
The reason I love the Boot Campaign is the way you approach the veteran community. You believe and help veterans rebuild themselves through expert assistance to regain their pride and ability. Those veterans can then go back into the world, live their lives, and tell their story to a population that needs to learn about the struggles and triumphs of veterans. The Boot Campaign is part of the solution, and I am here to help.
Why do you personally feel it is important to show support and gratitude to our nation’s servicemen and women?
Because they have borne the burden of war on our behalf. No service member made the decision to send Americans into harm’s way. Especially the Global War on Terror veterans, they volunteered fully knowing they would likely deploy to combat. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan became less popular and less understood, many of the triumphs and sacrifices of veterans stayed “in country” and are unknown to all but the veterans themselves.
Rather than just saying “thank you for your service”, it is important that America learns that veterans and their families did pay a cost during their time in service. They shouldn’t feel sorry for the veterans, instead they should try and hear their stories and better understand the cost of war on the individual level. We as Americans have to graduate from tacit “thanks” on Veterans Day to actually trying to understand what their service meant.
What would you say to a civilian or fellow veteran who wants to do something that makes a difference in the lives of military service members or their families?
For veterans, leaving the service often comes with a loss of purpose. The same level of laser focus on the mission is missing from civilian life. Combine that with the loss of community, veterans may find themselves spinning their wheels. A great way to regain that connection and purpose is to give back to the veteran community. If you found a new mission and purpose, share that story with fellow veterans. If you are struggling, share that story too. Show other veterans that you can still be badass and do awesome things outside of the military. It will be rewarding.
For civilians, serving veterans or their families bring the cliche “thank you for your service” to life. Rather than hollow words, show them your gratitude. Talk to them, listen to their stories, learn about the sacrifices of their buddies, then use that information to motivate you to help be a part of the solution. Helping veterans doesn’t have to mean running in a 4x4x48 challenge, it could mean finding a local business that’s run by a veteran and giving them regular business or going to a VA hospital and taking someone to lunch. Whatever you decide to do, make it a habit and help share their story.