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In the pitch-dark, early hours of Saturday morning, as a snowstorm squalled outside, Jason Mosel, a 33-year-old former Marine, accomplished a seemingly impossible feat: 3,194 chest-to-ground burpees in the span of 12 hours.
While he didn’t complete enough burpees to set a Guinness World Record, he achieved his ultimate goal: to raise awareness about veteran suicide, raising nearly $7,000 for the Josh Pallotta fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and service members.
“I feel like I got hit by a train, but emotionally I’m super thrilled with the outpouring of support, and the amount of people we were able to reach out to," said Mosel when it was all over at a gym in Berlin, Vermont. "It wasn’t about the record. It was continuously pushing on, minute by minute, hour by hour, and showing people that no matter what, no matter how much you struggle or want to quit, you can accomplish more than you think.”
“I feel immensely proud,” said his wife Amber Mosel, 34. “There were many times where I saw his face – ‘I want to quit.’ I could just see it on his face. He’s like ‘I can’t see straight, my wrists are broken and I’m like – ‘Mmm hmm. Keep doing it.’ I’m insanely proud.”
A group of family and friends gathered at Snap Fitness center, with eyes focused on the center of the room, where Mosel, sweaty, muscular and covered with tattoos, pushed through the last hour. Two security cameras recorded the event nonstop as evidence.
Spread around him on the ground were the supplies for the challenge – packets of Untapped drinking maple syrup, Clif bars, electrolyte drinks, a jar of pickles (for sodium, to fight off muscle cramps.) There were also easy-to-digest oat bars in a baggie, alongside a white board, where he kept track of his own count. On a yellow laminated paper, he had inspiring words to himself like ”Of course I struggle, I just don’t quit” and “When you want to quit, you’ve only given 40 percent of your energy!”
Now and then, someone would come in to the gym, take off their snow-caked outer layers, and hop on the floor alongside Mosel to join in the burpees for a few minutes.
Mosel and his supporters all wore red T-shirts, with a design on them featuring an American flag and hands reaching upward. "Never underestimate your value to the world," the phrase on the shirt said. At the end of each hour, Jason tore off his soaked T-shirt and put a fresh, dry shirt on.
“Just one at a time, keep pushing. Dig deep, you got this,” said his wife, Amber, at 4:50 a.m.
“It’s snowing outside but the real storm is in here,” Mosel joked, as he entered the last 40 minutes.
By 5 a.m., he had completed 3,070 burpees. Towards the end, the room would burst into cheers for every 10 he completed.
“I had a few sketchy moments, I thought I was going to pass out,” said Mosel, who works days as a field supervisor for Comcast, the parent company of NBC News. He also teaches fitness classes, the Insanity workout, and consults folks who are interested in training for extreme fitness challenges, like Spartan races or Tough Mudder.
The grueling exercise suits his mission to raise awareness about the epidemic of veteran suicides in the U.S. Every day, 20 active or former servicemen and women die, according to Veterans Affairs.
The mission is very personal for Mosel, who trained for months and survived a suicide attempt in 2005 after struggling with mental health issues following his first two tours of duty with the Marines.
Mosel wanted to do the event at night because it’s when many of the effects of PTSD start to appear, and suicide seems viable.
“It’s a very, very serious issue in this country, where we have veterans coming back after fighting overseas and they take their own lives,” he said. “Myself - after my first time in Iraq when I came back I really struggled with depression, and alcoholism and everything.”
“I know from my own past experience that the night time is the biggest time, it’s the hardest time, and when people are struggling. If somebody is out there and struggling, or having some issues or whatever, they can jump on the live stream, they can get after it with us, we can show them that we’re going to here fighting with you the whole night.”
What’s next for Mosel? He will continue to raise awareness about veteran suicide. But first things first:
“Now it’s time to eat some real food,” he said. “That was one of the things about doing burpees when your legs come in and out all the time, you can’t eat anything, or you’re going to have some issues. Sausage, egg and cheese sandwich, then go home and sleep.”