Recently my wife and I opened a training facility in Greenville S.C. called High Performance Gym. As volunteers for the Semper Fi Health and Wellness foundation, Clay Burwell and his wife work with wounded vets assisting them in their recovery from injuries suffered while serving our great nation. They typically work with guys who are amputees, burn victims, and those with traumatic brain injury. Though the organizations roots are with the Marine Corps, Clay will be their liaison, starting 2013, to work with the Wounded Warrior battalion on Ft Bragg. He has been tasked with heading up their “Martial Arts for Vets” program.

“My intentions are to get guys suffering depression and PTSD involved in Martial Arts as opposed to sitting on their couch and hitting the orange pill bottle, says Clay. My belief is that the civilian world is full of soft men and no camaraderie. An environment similar to what you may find in the military can be found in a martial arts dojo. Martial Arts is a highly effective stress outlet that when combined with the camaraderie can save lives.”

To assist in the rehabilitation of combat injured veterans, Clay will be hosting a fundraiser later this month. All proceeds go to the Semper Fi Health and Wellness Foundation. 

The fundraiser will consist of 3 parts. 

– A Wellness Workshoop for the Troops*
– A Hardcore “Hero” Workout*
– A Silent Auction

Beers and chow afterwards at a location TBD. Clay is seeking attendance from all – including any veterans. “If it works out we will have Marines, Army, Special Forces (Navy and Army) as well as local patriotic business owners and citizens in attendance,” he says. For more information check out Clay’s website

*The wellness seminar and workout are $40 each. 

When: January 26, 2013 – (3:00 PM to 7:00 PM)
Where: High Performance Gym
284 Rocky Creek Road
Greenville, SC

The organization would be honored to have you there as a donator to the silent auction, or as a participant, and would like to have as much participation from the community as possible. There will be a lot of vets on hand from all over the east coast, so let’s show them that we represent the best the country has!

If you know of another business or individual that would like to participate in the workshop or donate to the silent auction please pass this along. We could use as much help as possible.  Some nice donations have been raised, but there’s still a long way to go. If you’re unable to attend and still would like to donate. Here is a link that you can use to donate directly to the charity. 

Next: Q&A with Clay Burwell

To learn more about Clay and the outstanding work he does with our country’s wounded veterans, we grilled him for more details. 

M&F:  How did you get involved with Semper Fi Health & Wellness?

CB: A Marine buddy of mine named Faisal Sipra served in the Gulf with one of the founders Alvaro Matta, thought I would be perfect for their organization so he hooked it up and the rest is history.

M&F: What makes this organization unique (or different from other veteran assistance programs)?

CB: Our organization focuses on health and wellness from a more holistic, natural approach. We teach and motivate these warriors to be self-sufficient and how to heal their wounds (physical or mental) using fitness, yoga and super nutrition.

M&F: How does your background (military and training) help when working with the injured vets?

CB: Both my background as a Paratrooper and a trainer helps in many ways. I want to motivate them to get back in the fight. I want to show these brave heroes that they have so much to offer. It’s not gonna be a pity party. Their fight in many ways has only begun. We are there with them every step of the way. Brothers in arms. It’s not a saying. It is a way of life.

M&F: What types of injuries do these vets have (that you work with)?

CB: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) would be the most prevalent, followed by and most times with PTSD, and then amputees (many times multi limb) and burns. We have a hard charger in Camp Lejeune with a gold USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor on his glass eye. First time I met him he caught me looking at it and he gets up from across the room, walks straight up looks me dead in the face and goes ” I got one in silver too, but I kinda like the gold one”. Well I stared right back and said “Yeah no shit, the gold one is definitely badass” We smiled and that was that.  

M&F: What are some of the things you do to help them move beyond their injuries?

CB: We never ever turn a vet away. We make it happen. It is a hell of a responsibility but it is a tradition we take great pride in. Two weeks ago we went to a welcome home party for a hard charging infantryman who lost both his legs to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  Well we hit it off right away. This warrior and I had a couple beers and got to talking about dogs. I have a huge European Doberman I am very proud of. The Soldier saw pics of him and his face lit up. I started thinking hmm. The kid wants a dog. He deserves anything he wants. If my dog can make me smile a hundred times a day and I have the ability to give him this very gift… well it has to be done. I went through my Rolodex and I am currently sorting out not only the working bloodline Doberman but also the training and all the other bills. This is not something we have ever done. But again, it’s about holistic wellness. This dog is all the happy pill he will need. I just cannot wait to see the two of them walking together. America’s original war dog, the Doberman back helping our soldier out only this time through peace and love. Is it getting dusty in here?

Next: Martial Arts for Vets Program

M&F:  You mention that you’ve been tasked to head up the martial arts for vets program. Can you tell us a little about that? And how this program can be helpful to vets?

CB: Sure the Martial Arts for Vets program is something I took on as a way for guys to not only get back to training in the Martial Arts but also a way to re-acclimate to the civilian world, to be back among warriors. When you first leave the Military you are often times disgusted at how soft some of these ‘men’ are. Not the case in a Brazilian Jujitsu school or a Boxing gym. There is camaraderie, true friendship and brotherhood. It is an excellent stress relief and this is all exactly what they need.

M&F:  For your upcoming fundraiser on the 26th, you’ll be hosting a wellness seminar. What will that entail?

CB: This will be the exact wellness seminar we give the vets at the Wounded Warrior battalions. We teach them about nutrient dense super foods, the incredible power of green juice and how to use this as a way to not only keep their weight down but to aid them in healing faster. Chow hall food in my opinion is no place for a wounded warrior!  

M&F: What is the short hero workout? Can you share the routine with us?

CB:  Well it’s supposed to be a secret… haha Well there will be some push ups of course, fireman’s carry, weighted ammo can farmer walks, short jog and some rope climbing. Basic tactical ninja shit.

M&F:  Finally, what advice would you give to recently injured vets returning from combat?

CB: My advice is to get active and take it out on the weight pile. Shoulder up with other warriors who share your mindset. Get involved with something that makes others happy due to your hard work. Body, mind, spirit. 

Clay Burwell served in the US Army from 1995-1999 stationed at Ft Bragg in the 82nd Airborne Division. Since his discharge, Clay went on to a career as a personal trainer and gym owner. His clients have included Glenn Beck, Matt Damon, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Drea Dematteo (Sopranos), Anna Paquin and many others in Hollywood. Men’s Journal named Clay one of the top 100 trainers in America.