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By: Nolan Plant

In 2016, Dana Hills High School Senior, Branson Salhus used his lacrosse skills to give back to our nation’s veterans by participating in California’s Shootout For Soldiers. Branson and his team initially got involved through his coach who is “very passionate about supporting the military.” In addition, Branson has personal connections to the military.  He said he “has always been very interested in enlisting, and [is] still heavily considering it.”

However, for Branson, his experience last summer was different from most.

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Salhus playing at Shootout for Soldiers California

After learning about the wheelchair lacrosse game, he was quick to volunteer. Branson wanted to be involved, wanting “to experience how people who are unable to use their legs play the sport they love.” He had the opportunity to play with veterans and disabled people yet felt it was no different than playing with his usual teammates. This experience offered him a newfound respect for those who play the game.  “There’s no boundaries for anyone if you are truly committed,” Salhus said.

“One takeaway from that game was that they played not only for themselves, but for each other.”

Though, Branson isn’t the first person to learn this. 68 year old, Vietnam veteran Carey Mangold said that he only continues to play lacrosse in order to play at Shootout For Soldiers each year. He enjoys playing alongside other veterans and active servicemen who share an unbreakable bond. According to Marine Corps Sergeant Lance Crafton, Shootout For Soldiers helps cure those invisible wounds he has endured since returning home and is “the best group therapy [he] could get.”

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68-Year-Old Vietname Veteran, Carey Mangold, chatting on the sidelines

Being only two years into hosting Shootout For Soldiers, California attracted over 5,000 players, spectators, and veterans. Just like the other cities, Shootout For Soldiers is more than just a fundraiser for the city. In just their second year, Dana Point increased their donations by 40% and the amount of teams that participated doubled. Veterans came from all over to participate. Not only does Shootout For Soldiers give veterans an opportunity to meet and play with each other, it gives the community a chance to give back to those veterans. The Dana Point community turned out in full force to make this event the best yet. Although Branson got to play alongside veterans, it would not have been possible without the whole community and all its volunteers.