Purple Heart recipient Shane Kruchten, an 11-3 professional mixed-martial artist, issued an inspiring all-expenses-paid invitation on YouTube to a Gold Star Mother, Wife, or Daughter to accompany him to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball next month.
“I saw the new age of Marines inviting a lot of celebrities,” Kruchten tells Breitbart Sports. He explains that he heard of the sergeant major of the Marine Corps calling on Marines to stop inviting celebrities—Ronda Rousey and Mila Kunis attended past balls after online invites—to an event celebrating the heritage of the fighting force. “What better way to honor the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps heritage,” Kruchten thought, “than to bring a family member of a Marine who sacrificed everything.”
Kruchten’s wife, who recently endured knee surgery, played a role in his decision, too. “I don’t feel comfortable wearing a knee brace with a formal gown,” she told him. So, the featherweight fighter issued his all-call for a date who lost a Marine to attend the ball with him in San Diego.
During an Operation Iraqi Freedom tour of duty, the lance corporal lost friends and came under fire. The rifleman pays tribute to the ultimate sacrifices of 19 comrades from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines by permanently displaying their names on his back. Asking a Gold Star Wife, Mother or Daughter to the ball meshes with his ongoing efforts to honor his fallen brothers.
The event itself meshes with another seminal moment in his life. The Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebrates the founding of the combat unit in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, barroom 240 years ago. Kruchten’s MMA career similarly originated in a Menasha, Wisconsin, drinking establishment. “I got into fighting by pure accident,” he explains. “It was literally to get a bar tab. I went to a show in a bar.”
“Hey, you like to fight?” a promoter asked. “You look like a pretty big guy.” Krutchten, who weighed 260 pounds, responded, “Absolutely, I’ll fight if you give me a $500 bar tab.” He ditched his street clothes and proceeded to win a Vale Tudo match—like MMA but with fewer rules—with only a background in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, youth wrestling, and his experiences in armed warfare in Iraq. He reflects, “I fought for a bar tab.”
After putting eight years and 115 pounds behinds him, Kruchten competes as a featherweight in the World Series of Fighting. Out of action since a March 2014 loss snapped an 11-fight winning streak, the 31-year-old Iraq war veteran trains at 10th Planet San Diego. Kruchten sees similarities between MMA and the USMC.
“The comradery is just ridiculous,” he tells Breitbart Sports. “It’s 24-7. I can have any one of my teammates at my front door in three seconds if I need help. You talk about family, it’s everything I had in the Marine Corps except these guys have beards.”