Zachary Tellier, from what I have been able to gather from various online resources (including the military times), is listed in military memory as the following:
Army Sgt. Zachary D. Tellier
Died September 29, 2007 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
31, of Charlotte, N.C.; assigned to the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Sept. 29 at Firebase Wilderness, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.
And, from an obituary, we have this:
FORT BRAGG — An 82nd Airborne paratrooper who pulled two comrades from a burning vehicle in April died Saturday of wounds sustained while on a ground patrol in Afghanistan, military officials said Monday.
Sgt. Zachary D. Tellier, 31, who most recently lived in Charlotte, was a combat infantryman with the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team at Fort Bragg.
“He really just wanted to serve his country,” said wife Sara Tellier. “He felt it was something he should do with his life. … He didn’t like to be called a hero. He was very uncomfortable with that, but he was definitely very brave man.”
Sara Tellier said her husband grew up in New England, but they moved to Charlotte in 2004. He joined the military in 2005.
He was supposed to fly to Atlanta for a brief leave this month. Sara Tellier has been splitting time between Charlotte and Atlanta, where she has family.
In April, Tellier’s unit was on a mounted patrol when one of its vehicles drove over and detonated a bomb, which set the vehicle on fire, officials said.
Tellier pulled two paratroopers to safety, suffering severe burns to his hands. He was awarded the Bronze Star with valor for his actions. Tellier also had received two Purple Hearts.
After he was burned, Tellier jumped up in the turret to return fire, said Sgt. Michael Layton, a member of his unit. A lieutenant made Tellier get out of the vehicle because of his injuries.
He is survived by his wife, Sara; his father, David W. Tellier of Groton, Mass.; and his mother, Pamela Rodriguez, of Falmouth, Mass.
It is difficult to honor someone fully without having known him, and especially so, when only a small bit of text on a screen is all that is provided. I did read some of the personal notes at the bottom of the obituary page. However, they somehow felt too personal for such an outsider to be reading. Nonetheless, one stood out to me in particular, and I think it is what I was meant to see on that page. Benjamin Shields, a fellow member of the military, commented, “He was one of the most selfless individuals I have ever met and I still think about him to this day.” And, when Benjamin eventually became a sergeant, he said that he did his best to model Zachary’s leadership.
Originally, CrossFit released what are called “Hero WODs” (workout of the day) to honor and to pay tribute to specific individuals who have fallen and died during active service to our country. Eventually, the fitness community around the globe began creating their own Hero WODs to honor and to pay tribute to their selected, wonderful individuals who would be missed, due to the same result of falling while serving this country. It seems Zachary Tellier was one of the second group of individuals, from what I have gathered so far. Yet his name has become known across the globe, simply because of the workout given to honor him, to pay tribute to all that he was and all that he did, as well as to all that he still today inspires in those he knew.
The workout titled “Zachary Tellier” is not an easy one. None of the Hero WODs are. And yet, yesterday morning, as I was crawling back into bed to go to sleep, to take a day of rest from my regular, difficult exercise, I saw his name listed at the top of my gym’s Workout of the Day page, and I jumped into action. I told myself inwardly to wake myself up, because we are not missing this one, no matter the oh-so-few hours of sleep we had gotten last night. This was was worth it. And my body agreed.
I arrived at the gym, excited, almost bouncy. This was Zachary Tellier, after all – how could I not be? I had donned an all-black outfit with an American flag scrunchie in my hair. Today’s workout was to honor the struggles through which so many people go in order to provide for me and for my life. From the smallest to the largest, their sacrifices, their persistence, their struggles, both won and lost, are all a part of my ability to live a life I love. Just as mine affect those around me. Today’s workout was about honoring all of them, while giving special attention and gratitude to this one known but unknown individual, Zachary.
He is a reminder that even the unexpected can be faced effectively, even the worst of our fears can be faced successfully, and, even when we do fail at something, we succeed in something greater than we could have imagined. He did not consider himself a hero, it seems. And yet, for so many, he was just that through his daily life, through who he was as a person. And the world is a better place because he was part of it, and because he showed up in it.
Now, that all being said, let’s look at what this workout actually is.
150 Air Squats
Before I began at the gym, I am almost certain that I would have looked at this workout and thought, No Way. It was not in the realm of the possible for myself. And, I likely would have thought that as being applicable for the rest of my life. It wasn’t just a ‘not today’ kind of thing, but a ‘not ever’ one. I would not have thought it possible for me to complete this workout in a day, let alone all at once, or even within an hour’s time. If I had attempted it, I likely would have made it ten to 12 burpees into the thing and given up. Not for me, I would have determined.
Even when we had been at the gym for almost three months, and we did this workout all together, I was concerned partway through whether I would be able to complete the thing, let alone within any set amount of time. I did knee push-ups with an ab-mat under my chest (so I didn’t have to go as low on them), and likely really sucky lunges and squats, as well as push-ups, and I genuinely wondered whether I would survive, whether I could make it to the end… several times. I could barely move or breathe after about halfway through it.
And yet, I did survive. And I did finish. It took me 36 minutes and 20 seconds to finish, and my repetitions weren’t great at all, but I had done it. I had pushed through the intense struggles I was facing – not to mention the mental struggle of fitness that plagued me in the first place – and I had done the best I could, crappy, pathetic push-ups and all. And I had made it to the other side. I remember looking back on it afterward, wondering how on Earth I had done it – it had felt like the workout would never end, like I would fall to the ground, defeated long before I made it through to those squats.
Persistence, I thought. Not giving up, and just going for it… just doing it. That was how I’d done it. Certainly, the community around me was encouragement in and of itself. But, I could have easily seen where I was relative to them – so painfully far behind them – and given up. Yet I didn’t. Because something was more important than giving up. Because I saw that my attitude toward this workout could be no different than my attitude toward life as a whole. How did I tend to respond when faced with a seemingly impossible task? When I was faced with intense struggle that seemed like it might not let up anytime soon? I knew how I usually responded, and it almost made me sick to my core. My breathing was heavy during that workout for more than just the physical effort it was taking. I almost always gave up, when things got hard. I ran away, avoided. I gave up so many opportunities even for fear of their being too difficult – too difficult being defined as more effort than was easy to give.
This workout was just one step toward letting all of that go, and helping myself to become someone I wanted to be: someone who didn’t give up, who didn’t lose sight just because things got hard and seemed impossible. I can be strong, I can trust myself to survive, and I can make it through to the other side. After all, I already was showing myself that I could do that, simply by being at the gym that day, and each day since we had joined. All those tears shed were for the pain I was overcoming with each workout. And this one was just another, albeit a much more difficult one.
And so, in the intense heat and humidity that is always July 4th in Houston, Texas, I faced my fears and my stops in life, I pushed through and persisted, trusting myself in a way I was no longer accustomed to doing, and I completed the workout. In the tiniest of ways, I felt my success to be heroic in its own way. An inward Thank you… was all I could offer to Zachary Tellier after the workout, but I had meant it with all of my being. And so, though I did not know this man, and it was likely that he never would know how people across the globe, who never knew him, would be saying his name for years to come, I was grateful to him for the reminder that he forever would be for me: That I could do it, that I could survive, that I could thrive.
Now, roughly a year and nine months later, I found myself jumping out of a beloved opportunity for sleep and rest, donning an attitude of, “I can do this,” and heading into the 5:15am round of the Zachary Tellier workout with intense joy. My first time through, I had spent 36:20 on the seemingly impossible workout. The second time, exactly a year ago (nine months after the first time), it was 33:33, and I no longer used the ab-mat for my push-ups. Yesterday, though I wanted to show Zachary – as if we are buddies who meet up every time I do his workout – that I had improved upon myself, and I wanted to complete the workout faster than before, I knew that the best way to honor him and to pay tribute and true gratitude to him was to focus on my struggles. How I face this workout is how I face the world, right? So, let’s face it with confidence, excitement, and a touch of fear, ready to take on the challenge and face the unknown. In other words, I shall be my best self.
And I was. When things got really hard, I gave myself the needed breath, and got right back to it. A cry of pain or exhaustion was merely a release – like that old poster, it was weakness leaving the body – and each one allowed me to keep moving, to keep going. I knew I wasn’t in danger of hurting myself – I merely was pushing through the discomfort, the fears, the doubts, the impossibilities I had placed upon my own mind. I still was one of the last ones to finish, but I hardly even noticed that. It wasn’t about that. It was about my attitude and what I did in the face of the struggles. And, because of that, I had an amazing time. I was baffled when I saw the clock was only at 28:00 exactly after my final air squat. That was a 16.5% increase in speed from last year, and 23% faster than the first time. And isn’t that spectacular? Especially for a workout that had once seemed an impossibility for me.
I had initially intended to talk merely about the difficulty of this workout here, and yet, here we are, having talked first about the man for whom it was named, and then the workout itself… I suppose that man is half the reason my heart is in it, though, so it only makes sense. Without his name, it merely would be a list of activities. With his name, however, it gains a life of its own, and it reminds me to work on myself so that I might serve others in my world through my life. When I improve on this workout, I can see how, through my physical fitness and mental growth, I am better able to serve and to love those around me, better able to be patient, to endure, to work through the pain of what once seemed impossible. I can see how I am better able to be my best self.