The buzzing energy of hundreds of boxers hitting the bags is typical of an afternoon at the world-renowned Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn. But on this particular Thursday, you can find trainer David Murray coaching his group of veterans in what has become a tight-knit group -- along with the usual banter you might imagine from a band of brothers on the front lines.
Gleason's owner Bruce Silverglade created this program for veterans to train for free, after being contacted by the Veterans Affairs Hospital in New York City. A veteran himself, Silverglade served in Vietnam, and he said he "just wanted to give back to the veteran community." After being cleared by their physicians at the VA, veterans are welcome to come Tuesdays or Thursdays to train with Murray.
Murray has been in the boxing world for over 30 years and said that the program is really beneficial to the veterans: "The guys get to work out some stuff here -- you know, release some stress on the bag. Whatever they have going on out there, the vets come in and they hang out, get some exercise. I think it really helps them having a place they can go to."
The diverse group of vets from all areas of the military still find the same bonding environment, or as Army veteran Matt Williams said, "Leaving the military is like leaving home, and things aren't the same when you come back. Coming down to Gleason's is a release, you know, getting to see Sean (Marine veteran Sean Kraemer) and Steven (Army veteran Steven Camilo) is like seeing family."