For the second time this season, Microsoft provided a technology assist to allow a special group of 12s the opportunity to use Microsoft Teams chat virtually with some of their favorite Seahawks via a Microsoft Surface Hub prior to Sunday's game against the Cardinals.
With Sunday's game serving as the Seahawks' annual Salute to Service game — a day dedicated to honoring and celebrating military veterans as part of the NFL's year-round efforts — women in the military were the ones who had the chance to speak to and interact with the Seahawks during the second Pregame Huddle event of the season. The women who participated also have ties to various Seahawks Task Force 12 organizations, like FOB Hope, Minority Veterans of America, and Salmon for Soldiers, among others.
As Seahawks players headed out of the tunnel for warm-ups, they stopped to chat with the group of women on Microsoft Teams using a Surface Hub device located just outside the locker room, which provided the women with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes view that most people never get to see. The first player to stop and say hi was Jamal Adams, who thanked the women for their service and mentioned how hearing the national anthem being performed on the field prior to kickoff always gets him going.
Players like Carlos Dunlap II, and Tyler Lockett also stopped to chat with the group and give thanks. "We definitely have got to get y'all some 16 jerseys!" Lockett told the women.
Seahawks Legend Luke Willson joined the Teams meeting from his home, cracking jokes with the group while also explaining what goes on behind the scenes as the team prepares to head out onto the field for warmups. "You're kind of like, 'Hey, we put the work in, let's go out here and just let it rip,' you know?" he said. "It can be a moment where you're nervous, or you're reserved or you're anxious, but it's like, 'Hey, I've got your back, we're in this together, whatever happens — let's full send, if you will."
One of the women participating Sunday was Saudi McVea, a U.S. Air Force veteran who retired this August after serving for nearly 42 years. McVea is a member of American Gold Star Mothers, another Task Force 12 organization based on the fellowship of mothers whose sons or daughters became missing in action or died while on active duty.
McVea's situation was a bit different, though — her son, a combat veteran himself, died by suicide in 2017 while McVea was deployed to Afghanistan.
"Even though my son [died by] suicide, the Washington State Gold Star Mothers are also on the Task Force, and they recognized me as a Gold Star mom because it is a service-connected death," McVea said. "Normally it's only when you're killed in action that that happens, but sometimes it's also when you come home that you have some pretty big scars."
McVea also does work with the Permission to Start Dreaming (PTSD) Foundation, which aims to help combat veterans and their families deal with the effects of post traumatic stress through peer-to-peer mentoring and other collaborative approaches. The foundation also raises money to send vets through a program called Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes), a transformative training program meant to help veterans facilitate post-traumatic growth.
"[I was sent] to Warrior PATHH in January 2020, which has been where I've really learned a better way to struggle," McVea said. "And if my son had had PATHH, I believe my son would be alive today."
McVea now serves as a part-time guide in the PATHH program. "I get to be a part of veterans' lives changing, and first responders, so that they really learn how to take the skills they already have, and repurpose them so that they can really thrive versus being marked with the word PTSD," she said.
McVea said her favorite player is Russell Wilson, but her favorite parts of the Pregame Huddle event were being able to chat with Luke Willson for an extended time, as well as bonding with Tyler Lockett over a shared military connection. "It was cool that he actually spoke and he said his mom was in the Air Force Reserve as well, so it just kind of gave you an immediate connection."
The Seahawks honored military veterans in several other ways throughout Sunday's game, also. The National Anthem was performed by U.S. Air Force veteran Keisha Gwin, and the U.S. flag was run out of the tunnel by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erica Myers, who currently serves at Joint Base Lewis McChord. The 12 Flag was raised by Alfie Alvarado, current director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.
During the second quarter of the game, the Seahawks recognized the service of Dr. Diana Ross-Jackson, mother of Seahawks defensive end Carlos Dunlap II. Dr. Ross-Jackson served 11 years in the U.S. Army with a primary specialty as a Dental Specialist.
The Seahawks and Microsoft began holding Pregame Huddles for fans last season, when 12s were still not able to attend games in-person due to COVID-19. The team will host two more Pregame Huddle events during the 2021 season.