The Friday night lights will be shining on the Heritage and Chatfield High School football teams this week. However, the action won’t be with helmets and pads on the gridiron.
The teams will compete in the annual Danny Dietz 6-28-05 Memorial Fitness Challenge. Dietz was a former Littleton resident and a U.S. Navy SEAL who was killed June 28, 2005, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. On Sept. 13, 2006, Dietz was posthumously awarded the United States’ second highest citation for valor, the Navy Cross. Also, a section of Santa Fe Drive between I-25 and C-470 has been named the “Navy Seal Danny Phillip Dietz, Jr. Memorial Highway.”
Since his death, his family has worked to honor his memory, said Matthew Luoma, a board member for the Danny Dietz Leadership & Training Foundation.
“After Danny died, the family set up this foundation to attempt to channel Danny’s spirit and channel into youths to realize their potential,” said Luoma.
The foundation trains and mentors local teenagers and twenty-something’s and help them learn teamwork, leadership skills, and achieve more through intellectual and physical challenges. The group hosts youths Mondays and Wednesdays each week at the Littleton YMCA, which offer vigorous workouts and intellectual discussions. During the classes, Danny Dietz Sr., who was a Vietnam Corpsman, teaches and motivates young people. Most young people who are involved with the group are interested in joining the military, Luoma said. Dietz Sr. encourages participants to read the book “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10,” which was written by Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of Operation Redwing — the operation in which Danny Dietz died.
The memorial challenge will consist of six exercises, 28 repetitions and five sets—or 6 28 05—which represents the date of Dietz’s passing. The exercises include push-ups, weighted lunges, sit-ups, burpees (or squat thrusts), four-count flutter kicks and ground-to-overhead plate presses.
Luoma said the foundation’s impact is tangible.
“When I compare these kids to just 15 months ago, the difference is strikingly noticeable. They’re more mature, they’re more confident, they’re more responsible,” said Luoma.
For his part, Luoma, 57, has seen a change in his own life since he started attending weekly sessions with the foundation.
“I approach obstacles and with a different mindset these days,” he said. “I don’t think so much about how much it’s going to hurt or whether it’s going to be an aggravation or whether I can get it done. I just approach it, analyze it, and I just start chipping away at it. And I was kind of surprised that I would have a noticeable attitude change on conflict and problems.”
The Danny Dietz 6-28-05 Memorial Fitness Challenge will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 28, at Littleton Public Schools Stadium, 199 E. Littleton Blvd. The individual winner will receive a memorial coin. The winner of the team competition will have the honor of holding for a year the Danny Dietz Memorial Challenge Trophy, which is a miniature of the statue in Littleton’s Berry Park, which honors Dietz. While the event is open to the public, competitions this year will be limited to the football teams. The event is free, however donations are encouraged. Merchandise will also be for sale.
Chris Ferguson is a news editor for Evergreen Newspapers. E-mail story tips to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.