Derek Weida
CrossFit | Oakdale, MN
Hi, I’m Derek Weida. I’m a 29 year old wounded veteran, nay, amputee-extraordinaire, living in St. Paul, Minnesota.I served as a Paratrooper in the United States ARMY’s prestige 82nd Airborne Division. On June 23, 2007, I was shot side-to-side through the right knee during a nighttime house raid in the Shaab Ur district of Baghdad. I fought hard through 18 months of surgeries and physical therapy to rehab my knee so I could return to my unit. Sometimes things are just out of our control and I was medically retired from the ARMY in June 2009. I spent 2008-2010 angry, depressed, drunk, and suicidal. All of my dreams and aspirations revolved around being a soldier and I felt like since that part of my life was over, my life was over in general. In December 2011 I had my leg amputated, something I had fought to have done since 2007. Once I was freed from the shackles of my busted up leg I began to thrive. My passion for life returned. And, well, I am now as you see me today. Of course there is much more to this story but how do I sum up six years of turmoil? And let’s be honest, you’re reading this, but you’re probably also already wondering what today’s viral cat video is. Cheers.
After I had my leg amputated I moved to Denver to be near one of my best friends and old ARMY brother. I lived there for about a year and I was just… happy. I told my friends and family not to expect anything great from me because I was going to take a bit of a hiatus. I drank, I ate, I laughed, I had fun. I wasn’t in pain anymore, wasn’t depressed or angry. But when I moved back home to Minnesota I knew that it was time for me to refocus and figure out what my purpose was. I met regularly with my psychologist at the VA and my “Aha” moment happened there. I had been a college student, and college has a way of making a soldier feel somehow deficient. “Love everyone, everyone is good, all we need is love,” seemed to be a popular message. But in my meetings with my psychologist I remembered who I was. I was a soldier. I understood that sometimes people just needed a good killing. I walked away from those meeting with the feeling that I don’t have to apologize for my patriotism. That soldiering is just woven into my DNA. But now I’m a soldier with no ARMY, no battlefield. So what’s left? What’s left is my passion for pushing myself physically and mentally, and above all, service. My service to others was the piece that had been missing. So I began making steps and putting myself in a position where I could be of benefit to others in a way that made sense for me and who I am.
I’d like to say that my motivation and inspiration comes from some outside source, but it’s just not true. My inspiration comes from a deep desire to become the best possible version of myself. It’s how I answer the question, “What is the good life?” Doing what we know we need to do in order to be the best versions of ourselves, whatever that may be. My passion is fitness so I fitness the fuck out of shit. If you’re passion is writing, fuck those words up! If you math, math hard! If I crawl into bed at night and I know I didn’t live up to my full potential, I lose a little sleep. So, what inspires me is to be my best, to do my best. I understand that it all sounds very selfish. Maybe it is. But I would argue that a damaged spirit is of no use or service to others. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
Settling is something we learn not to do through experience. We’ve all had those moments in life when, at the end of a task, we know we performed like shit. That’s a horrible feeling! But it’s from these experiences that we learn we never want to feel that way so over time we stop settling, we stop making excuses, stop our bitching, and just get shit done. Fuck settling. Who wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to be half as good as I can be today?” Don’t forget what your purpose is. Stay focused, stay vigilant, and fuck you some life up!
My biggest achievement? I founded and operate a nonprofit for veterans called The Next Objective. Through the organization we give grants to veterans for gym memberships, training, and event sponsoring. Fitness, accomplishing short-term goals, and reconnecting with my military/veteran communities were what pulled my out of my dark years and so we try to recreate my success for others. Every time I’m able to meet and empower a new veteran, that’s my biggest accomplishment
I’ve put myself out there as a leader. Not just to the military/veteran community but to the world at large. I speak to the importance of not letting the bullshit life throws at us stop of from doing what we want to do or becoming who we want to be. But, I’m still human. Sometimes I feel the weight of my past, the weight of depression, self-doubt, fear. What keeps me going is that people look to me now as an example. If I quit, if I give up, I’m sending the wrong message to thousands of people. So, when I feel weak, I consider this. I help others and they help me. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that will guarantee success for all of us.
I don’t have an “end goal” because there is no end. The end is when you’re dead. For now, however, one of my biggest goals is to keep chipping away at what I’m doing and someday open my own gym. I like my freedom and I fought for it, so I deserve to enjoy it. I have my own visions and dreams so simply being an employee at a gym would no be very fulfilling to me. I’d also like to be competitive in the CrossFit world against able-bodied people. It’ll take time and a lot of hard work but that’s what we love. Fuck Easy Street.
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