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A salute, and then some
A Salute to Service comes to CenturyLink Field for this afternoon’s game between the Seahawks and New York Jets. But the Seahawks’ commitment to military appreciation goes well beyond even all the activities that are scheduled before and during today’s game.
“I don’t look at this as us showing that we’re doing something, we’ve been doing something regularly throughout,” coach Pete Carroll said of the Seahawks having their day in the NFL-wide campaign to honor veterans and active-duty members of the military.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate the work and all that’s gone into our support of the military.”
The Seahawks host soldiers at practices in the spring, summer and fall, and players also make year-round visits to military bases in the area. The Sea Gals also make annual visits to military bases around the world.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to recognize all the amazing stuff that everybody has done in support of our country,” Carroll said. “So whenever we can, we love to involve them in everything we do.
“We have kind of an open policy with the guys down at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, that they can come and go as they please. We want them to always feel welcome and feel connected to the Seahawks. We’ve had a great relationship and will continue to.”
It’s a commitment that starts with Carroll, continues with vice president of community relations Mike Flood, a former Coast Guard pilot; and now includes Armando Mejia, the first-year fan development international outreach manager who has a Purple Heart from his 12 years in the Army.
It’s a 24/7/365 commitment that will have its showcase event today at CenturyLink Field.
“Being able to recognize them on this day is fitting,” Carroll said. “This is for them.”
Because of everything the Seahawks do for the military personnel who do so much for everyone. Like hiring Mejia to serve as a liaison officer, if you will. He’s been there, so he knows just what goes into putting your life on the line in the service of others.
It was Oct. 29, 2004, that the Humvee he was riding in was hit by an IED (improvised explosive devise) in Iraq. The vehicle flipped and left Mejia needing 22 surgeries.
“I’ve got scars everywhere,” he said. “That was a long rehab – looong rehab. I had to learn how to walk and do a lot of things. But I kept going.”
So Mejia can relate to the concerns other soldiers harbor, and approaches events such as today’s Salute to Service as labors of love.
“We do so much here, I’m so impressed with just how much we do,” he said. “I think we do a lot more than any of the other teams. Like for this game, we’re doing so much it’s incredible.”
And that’s because Mejia knows just how much it means to the veterans and soldiers that are being saluted. You can see it on the soldiers’ faces when the Seahawks’ players make visits, as they did to JBLM last month to spend time with a group that was about to be deployed. You can hear it in the laughter the soldiers share with the players. It’s also apparent in the players’ somber looks as they leave to return to Virginia Mason Athletic Center and their lives as professional football players, knowing that these soldiers are heading directly for harm’s way.
“It’s fascinating just to be able to think about the time and the energy that they put into keeping us alive and all of the things they do for us that we don’t even know that they do,” quarterback Russell Wilson said after the JBLM visit. “All of that just to allow me to throw the football and share God’s gift of being able to play football – and throw the ball to Sidney Rice and hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
“We wouldn’t be able to do it without them. So it’s amazing to meet these people.”
Just as those people always are amazed to meet the players.
“This is a career they chose, and when somebody says ‘Thank you’ to us, it’s like, ‘No, thank you for the support,’ ” Mejia said. “It’s a different career path.”
One that Mejia started down, only to have it come to an explosive and painful end.
“I would do it again,” he said. “Even after all I’ve been through, I would do it again.”
And that shared mindset definitely is worth saluting – not just today, but every day.