Fitness for Wounded Veterans
Corporal Christopher Coffland was a Baltimore native and student-athlete who excelled both at The Gilman School and Washington and Lee University. He received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1998. After completing college, he pursued a doctorate degree for which he traveled extensively throughout the world, studying and immersing himself in many different cultures. As a stellar athlete, Coffland also spent time playing professional football in Finland.
The multi-talented Coffland was not only a football player, role model, artist, anthropologist, son, brother, uncle, and friend to so many people – he was the epitome of a citizen soldier. Coffland had always been a selfless individual who joined the military at age 41 to protect our liberties as Americans. He was truly dedicated and determined to be the best soldier possible in all facets of the military.
Like many soldiers who have risked their lives to save others, Coffland was a person who thought about others first rather than himself and never described himself as extraordinary. Young soldiers not only looked at Coffland as a leader and fitness expert, but they also looked to him as a “fatherly figure” who could not only provide guidance, direction, and lift their warrior spirits in training and combat but in personal challenges as well.
As an intelligence analyst, he felt that he was doing a job that needed to be done in service to his nation. Coffland also personally believed that by joining the Army in the latter part of his life, his enlistment could keep a mother or father out of harm’s way. That is the type of person he was, never putting himself above others.
Corporal Coffland was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) two and a half weeks after arriving in Afghanistan. Coffland was assigned to the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion out of Fort Meade, Md., as an intelligence analyst. His death is where his never-ending legacy begins through the compassion, dedication, and hard work of Coffland’s sister, Lynn Coffland, who created the Catch a Lift Fund (CAL) in 2010, a nonprofit whose primary mission is to promote Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) by providing post-9/11 wounded veterans nationwide granted gym memberships and home gym equipment. His intense passion for health and physical fitness is what inspired Lynn to keep Chris’ memory alive and incorporate the importance of physical fitness in the lives of combat veterans.
As a combat veteran and CAL grant recipient myself, I know firsthand the multitude of challenges soldiers face when we return home from combat. Medication and substance abuse were the only options I seemed to have after separating from the military. Certain smells, loud and unexpected noises, and other triggers brought me right back into combat. It is very hard to adjust from your combat mentality where you are always scanning and identifying potential threats to becoming a husband and father in a matter of weeks upon post-deployment.
Most people don’t realize that once you separate from the military, treatment and comradery are completely gone. As a soldier and leader, you lose that sense of identity and purpose. But, most importantly, that avenue of communication with your fellow soldiers disappears, leaving you in a state of “limbo.” I became extremely depressed and I felt like my life was over until a soldier I served with in Afghanistan told me about an organization called Catch a Lift that will get you back into the gym and back into a state of physical and mental toughness.
I applied in 2014. Four years later, I lost 30 pounds, and I currently volunteer as the race coordinator for CAL. In addition, we are one of the charity partners for runDisney, participating in all four Disney races throughout the year. What CAL provided me and thousands of other soldiers is purpose, motivation and direction – three main ingredients that were lacking in our lives once we separated, and without those key elements, we are lost as individuals!
For the past two years, CAL has reached more than $1 million in donations through the hard work of their volunteers as well as the soldiers who share their emotional stories of combat and struggles during post-deployment. Additional key accomplishments to date include ringing the NYSE bell on Dec. 22, 2016, and being a top-rated organization for the past three years by GreatNonprofits.org. Our past two audits show that more than 90% of every dollar donated goes directly to veteran programs. In 2015, our organization was featured on the CBS evening news with Scott Pelley. We have more than 3,000 veterans in our program representing all 50 states, including a large veteran population in Florida.
Lynn Coffland and her team continuously strive every day to ensure our servicemen and women have the opportunity to improve the quality of their lives through physical fitness, nutrition and accountability. In addition, Coffland and everyone on her team are always there for you 24 hours a day when you need someone to talk to.
For more information, to volunteer, or make a donation, please visit www.catchaliftfund.org.