Watching football and talking with Marines and their families, former NFL Players were given the opportunity to give back in a face to face manner a couple of weeks ago at Camp Pendleton. CA. These former NFL stars such as Chris Sanders and Hank Baskett, have no experience in combat, they do however have experience in a very similar battle that many soldiers face.
“When I retired from the NFL, that’s when my war started,” said former NFL wide receiver Chris Sanders. He went on to talk about the uphill battle he faced after leaving professional football, his low points that he went through, and how getting help is what saved him.
“You’re talking about a guy who played in the super bowl, who broke Jessie Owens’ long jump record, who made the all-rookie team, who did great things in the NFL… who wanted to commit suicide, was depressed, afraid to get help. I went through so many things. But until I reached out and got some help, that’s when my life changed.”
Through the stories of Former NFL players, who themselves struggled to cope with the transition of leaving the NFL, service men and women are encouraged to seek out help with the transitions in their lives, whether it’s from life in a combat-zone to being state-side, or going from active-duty to the reserves or civilian life.
The “Game Day” event is run by The Real Warriors Campaign, an organization launched in 2009 by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury “to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans and military families coping with invisible wounds.” Having already visited Fort Campbell KY Quantico VA, and others, “Game Day” is held at bases around the country in an effort to eliminate the stigmas and negative associations with getting help for the wounds and struggle you can’t se, through examples of former NFL stars.
“Hank Baskett is my idol, and I would have never thought he went through any of the things he talked about,” said Cpl. Bret Apopaca “It’s very brave of them to be able to stand up in front of all of us and talk about their personal experiences.”
After sharing their struggles and how they got help, the former players gave advice on how to move past those struggles and prepare for the future. “Take some of the time now and plan for when you are done, so when you do lace up your boots for the last time and you go into the real world, you have some sort of plan; you know how to react, and you build where you want to go from there,” said former wide receiver Baskett.
“Game Day” is just a portion of The Real Warriors Campaign’s multifaceted approach to encourage Veterans and their families to seek help when they return home with the wounds you can’t always see. The initiative also uses a multitude of partnerships with like-minded organizations, media outreach initiatives, social media programs and events such as these.
To read other soldiers stories of overcoming the challenges of coming home, listen to their podcasts, learn how to get help or just talk to someone about whatever issues or struggles you have going on visit: http://www.realwarriors.net/
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