This past Monday, Danny Vitale donned a 20-pound vest, like he has for the last five Memorial Days and got to work. A one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and another one-mile run with extra weight strapped to his body.
Vitale wasn't alone in taking on this physical and mental task. In fact, he was one of thousands across the country pushing their limits for the annual Murph Challenge.
The Murph Challenge is an annual fundraiser for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which was created in 2014. The challenge is in honor of Lt. Michael "Murph" Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was killed in action in Afghanistan. For the actions he took, risking his own life to save his fellow SEALs, Lt. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007.
The Murph Challenge is a physical and mental challenge to honor Lt. Murphy's life, memory and ultimate sacrifice.
This is not something Vitale takes lightly. His own family has deep military roots. Vitale's brother serves in the Navy. Two cousins served in the Army and the Navy, and both of his grandfathers served – one as an Army combat medic and the other in the Marines.
"It's always been really important to me. I like to throw the statistic out there all the time to people because I don't think they realize it's really a small amount of people who actually enlist or sign up to fight on the battlefield," Vitale said. "It's less than 1 percent of our U.S. population signs up to do that. They're really just special people from that aspect and then the people who sacrifice for this country. Some of them make the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives for people they don't even know on a personal level who live here just so we can be free."
The Murph Challenge encourages people to put their mental and physical toughness to the test, and while Vitale got his best time yet, completing the challenge in 39 minutes and 40 seconds, he said it never gets easier.
And that's exactly the point.
"It's just a good way to kind of bring the community together, do something hard and challenging and push yourself because obviously the amount of suffering you feel during that workout is nothing in comparison to not only the suffering that some of those soldiers go through, but also the families when they experience that loss, as well," he said. "It's just a simple thing that you can do and also it's a little challenging, not necessarily easy to do."
Vitale said he is thankful every day for those who serve on the frontlines, whether it is in the military or EMTs working at home to help their communities, and he wants to encourage others to help support those people and their families where they can.
"The important thing for me was the people who have given their life and sacrifice for this country, it's important for us to not only honor them but let their families know we care about them as well," Vitale said.
For his work with veterans, active military members and their families while with the Packers, Vitale was the team's nominee for the 2019 Salute to Service Award.