Veteran’s Day is often defined as a day of gratitude and thanks for the many sacrifices both current and former members of the Armed Services made for this country. Today I want all of us to take a moment to understand the person you’re thanking and why we band together for causes like Shootout for Soldiers.
The military in and of itself is its own world consisting of established hierarchies, unusual customs and lifestyle schedules that don’t always translate to the civilian lifestyle. I spent some of the best days of my life in a foreign country surrounded by a group of guys who were there to work hard and cut loose together when our work was done. We would spend weeks practicing for a potential attack by North Korea while wearing chemical suits under the summer sun fixing aircraft and simulating casualty collection as if it were the real thing. And yet thousands of miles away some great friends I hadn’t met yet were experiencing real loss and heartache in the middle of the desert. It was within these harsh environments we built bonds that would help us endure the times.
12 years later we gather on Canandaigua turf in the middle of summer to a battle it out with lacrosse sticks, all for a cause that is much bigger than ourselves. Those unspoken bonds that transcend across every branch of the military that had once felt so familiar in our previous lives had been rediscovered.
For 60 minutes the ROC Warriors traded the sound of cold steel carving the ice for cleats sprinting through the turf, long curved graphite and fiberglass sticks for short ones with nets. A team that so commonly enjoyed a cold surrounding was now out in the sweltering July heat playing a sport we’ve never played, using equipment that only vaguely felt right, but at the same time using that to bring our team of veterans closer together. A solemn reminder of days we still long for at times.
Organizations like Shootout for Soldiers have become crucial to our veterans. It has filled some of those holes once satiated by the military of this great country. Allowing us to not only engage our communities but to also educate them on the challenges we face.
I can only hope that organizations like this one continue to thrive and expand with each passing year. As awareness of any platform spreads, it sows the seeds among others to find more new and creative ways to engage our veterans and educate our communities. Each of them using their platform to help our brothers and sisters in arms find the comradery and sense of belonging that was once so crucial to getting us through the hardest of times and now helping us continue to find our sense of belonging.