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Thanking a Veteran by putting that gratitude into action

"Thank you is great. But mean it, be worth it, and put hands and feet on that and go do something with it," said Navy veteran Cody Bandars.

It's one thing to thank a veteran, on Veterans Day or any other day, but another thing entirely to put that gesture into action.

So at CrossFit Dallas Central, at an early Veterans Day start time of 6 a.m., the first of 130 participants began a multi-hour socially-distanced 1-million meter journey. 

On upright row machines, on exercise bicycles, and on sprint ski machines they combined for those 1-million meters to raise $10,000 for the veterans service organization Carry the Load. 

"Thank you is great. Thanks for your service. I love that. That's great," said Cody Bandars, a Navy veteran and now ambassador for Carry the Load. "But mean it, be worth it, and put hands and feet on that, and go do something with it." 

Bandars was among the first participants to start the fundraising effort Wednesday morning.

"Best of all, it's just a great opportunity to think about others," said Spencer Nix of CrossFit Dallas Central, where they reached the $10,000 goal Wednesday afternoon.

And another example at a house in McKinney, the one with a bone-carrying puppy statue that welcomes you at the front door. It's the home of Air Force veteran Jason Morgan and his dog Yago: the dog helping save him after a vehicle accident while fighting drug cartels with special forces in Ecuador 21 years ago.

"The vehicle went down a ravine. And then the vehicle rolled over the top of me, which crushed my back and left me face down in the water," said Morgan. 

He has been paralyzed ever since, and he's received help from Canine Companions for Independence through Baylor Scott & White. Yago, the third dog he's received through the program, is trained to pick up items he drops, open and close doors, drawers and refrigerators, and to be his constant companion when he just needs an emotional lift. 

And, most recently, delivered an engagement ring to Jason's girlfriend.

 After taking the jewelry box from Yago's mouth, she said yes.

"And he did an amazing job especially for his first big task in front of a live audience," Morgan said with a smile. 

"There's no way to put into words how much having this dog means to me and much it benefits my life," he said of the Canine Companions for Independence program, which has, even during the pandemic, placed 296 service dogs since the start of 2020. 

Thirty-three of those service dogs have come from the Baylor Scott & White Kinkeade Campus in Irving. 

"I want to say it's so great to live in a country where people appreciate their veterans, and they know that freedom isn't free," said Morgan.

So, how did you appreciate a veteran, how did you say thank you this Veterans Day?

"To have a day to press pause from all the (stuff) that's going on," Nix at CrossFit Dallas Central added. "And think about that, I think is really special."

Special today and every day, thanking veterans any way you can.