By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications
Former NFL players, Marines and their families watched the New England Patriots take on the Baltimore Ravens at a “Game Day” event hosted by the Real Warriors Campaign Sunday. Hosted at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., the event helped open a dialogue about coping with reintegration, as players shared their own stories about transitioning out of the NFL, and encouraged service members and families to reach out for support when times are tough.
“What they do on the combat field and in life, it’s a parallel with us. We make the transitions from sports to the real world, and they make the transition from combat [to home],” said John Booty, a former defense back for the New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Phoenix Cardinals, New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “For me, this event is part of giving back.”
Before the game, NFL players spoke about common reintegration challenges and the resources available to them, citing the tools and resources available at www.realwarriors.net, including articles, tip sheets, public service announcements and video profiles.
“A campaign like this is bringing a message from someone who’s not in uniform, but it’s someone our Marines and their families can relate to,” said Col. Daniel J. Choike, base commander. “The message is that asking for help is not showing a sign of weakness. In hearing this from NFL players, that might cause more people to take the time and effort to stop, listen and recognize the fact that there are things going on in their life.”
Ken Harvey, a former linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins, personally related to reintegration challenges. At home after retiring from 11 years in the NFL, he coped with depression.
“Athletes are taught to be tough, and Marines are taught the same thing. Because you have that mindset it can be hard to say, ‘hey—I’m struggling with something.’ I’ve dealt with it myself,” said Harvey, who has participated in the event for the second year. “I want to help people [in a] transition to [know] that it’s okay to say something. Then the doors will open and you can get help.”
The event also featured the video profile of Marine Staff Sgt. Josh Hopper, who reached out for support after experiencing post-combat psychological concerns following a traumatic brain injury from improvised explosive device (IED) blasts.
After presentations, players, service members and families enjoyed food and conversation as they cheered on their favorite teams.
Real Warriors Campaign has partnered with the NFL Players Association since 2010 to host “Game Day” events at bases around the country, including Fort Carson, Colo., Fort Drum, N.Y., Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Fort Bragg, N.C., this month.