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SOURCE: USA Lacrosse Magazine, North Atlantic Region
Dylan Butler

There might not be a more perfect union than Erik Mineo and Shootout for Soldiers.

That’s because the annual charity event, which enters its 10th year in 2022, combines two of his passions — lacrosse and assisting military veterans.

Mineo was both. He played high school lacrosse at St. Anthony’s (N.Y.), where he’d first meet his future wife Dani, and was recruited by Maryland, Navy and Notre Dame among Division I schools, but chose West Point, where he played four years. Mineo’s grandfather was on Omaha Beach in the sixth wave on D-Day and his father was in the Medical Service Corps treating soldiers from the front lines in Vietnam. He was a freshman on Sept. 11, 2001, and his graduating class was known as the Class of 9/11, the last class to enroll during a time of peace to volunteer to serve during a time of war.

Over 14 years, Mineo served three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq as a part of the 82nd Airborne Infantry and Special Operations Force’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment. He connected with Shootout for Soldiers founder Tyler Steinhardt when Mineo was the director of scholarships and enrollments at Johns Hopkins University ROTC.

That was in 2012, when the inaugural event set a Guinness World Record for a 24-hour continuous game. “I was in awe of what they were doing,” Mineo said. “Tyler and I sparked a good partnership, friendship, mentorship kind of relationship.”

As Shootout for Soldiers evolved from an event with one exclusive benefactor, Wounded Warrior Project, to one that combined large national charities with local charities, Mineo’s role grew as well. When Steinhardt stepped down in 2020 — he’s still active as the first member of the Board of Directors — Team RWB, an organization whose mission is to “enrich the lives of America’s veterans,” took over.

Mineo became program manager on May 17, 2021, tasked with staging three events during his six-month contract after Shootout for Soldiers had a forced hiatus in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to connect all things lacrosse… while bringing attention to the veteran communities.” – Erik Mineo, Executive Director of Shootout for Soldiers

After Shootout for Soldiers held events in 10 cities in 2019, it got back on the field in Baltimore, Canandaigua and Long Island, where they set a new record with $179,230.20 raised during the 24-hour event for the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund, the Long Island Air Force Association and the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund.

Last year’s event at Massapequa’s Field of Dreams included a wheelchair game and rivalry games featuring the NYPD vs. FDNY, the Nassau County Fire Department vs. the Suffolk County Fire Department, the MTA police department against the Port Authority police department and an internal game involving the New York State Police.

This year, Shootout for Soldiers is back at Field of Dreams from July 21-22. An All-Veteran Parachute Team will jump in the game ball to kick off the festivities, while about 25-40 Vietnam veterans will be honored during the opening ceremonies, with special plans to remember Vietnam veterans and veterans of Desert Storm. The Faceoff Academy will have a one-hour free clinic for different age groups and North Carolina standouts and Long Island natives Jamie Ortega and Taylor Moreno will host a girls’ lacrosse clinic.

Long Island is one of seven locations. The others are Atlanta, Virginia, Ohio, Philadelphia, Canandaigua and Baltimore at USA Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md. That event will be held on Sept. 11 weekend.

Now as executive director, Mineo has big plans for the Shootout for Soldiers to expand beyond a summer event in a few locations on the East Coast. “Invest West” is a rallying cry with the event perhaps going to California as early as next year.

“I want to focus on growing lacrosse in California,” Mineo said. “The bicoastal lacrosse growth is a requirement and something we need to do.”

Mineo also views Shootout for Soldiers as an event that merges all aspects of the sport. He said he’s already in talks with a few National Lacrosse League teams to perhaps have a first box lacrosse Shootout for Soldiers, or as Mineo puts it, “A Winter Soldier Edition.”

“We want to connect all things lacrosse, from USA Lacrosse to the PLL to the NLL to Shootout for Soldiers,” Mineo said. “We want to be that connective tissue that’s always there as a charity of choice supporting the growth of lacrosse, while bringing attention to the veteran communities.”