TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2021) — James Martin didn’t flinch.
When the coronavirus pandemic brought life to a screeching halt last year, the Marine veteran continued forward, reaching out to injured veterans and their families who were isolated at home. He was one of the first to join the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Discord server, which connects injured veterans to one another virtually.
“I remember in the first week or two, it went from 25 to 300 participants, from 300 to 500, from 500 to 700. And I’m like, ‘Wow, this is going to be epic,’” James recalled.
By the end of 2020, nearly 2,000 warriors had plugged into the Discord community, and James consistently connected them with the lifesaving programs and services WWP provides.
Learn more about WWP’s lifesaving programs and services.
“I knew through video games that there are a lot of people who just don’t leave their house,” James said. “With this Discord and how it was blowing up, I was like, ‘That’s how we find them and get them the help that they need.’”
James didn’t flinch when his community needed him either.
James’ wife Renee is a teacher at Aliquippa High School in western Pennsylvania. A seasoned photographer, Renee routinely captures images of the Quips varsity football games every fall. When the pandemic forced fans to stay at home, the athletic department reached out to Renee to ask for a favor.
“When they asked us about livestreaming the games, I’m like, ‘Well, let me talk to my husband. I know he streams at home,’” Renee said.
It didn’t take long for James to reach a decision.
“When it came to the ability to livestream for them…we said, ‘Yeah we’re going to do this the best we can,’” James said.
James’ livestreams were seen across the country, including by college coaches looking to recruit some Aliquippa players.
“I can’t say enough about the job he did getting our student athletes out there, not only for exposure to colleges, but for their families and Quips fans across the nation,” Aliquippa athletic director Brandon LeDonne said. “It was just an exceptional job he did for our student athletes.”
James made sure those kids were seen. He also made sure kids in his neighborhood who were facing domestic issues were seen, too. He and Renee opened their home to several kids during the pandemic. Why?
“I know I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for somebody looking out for me,” James said. “So why not give back?”
While James focused on others, the National Football League (NFL) focused on him as it looked to recognize three community heroes who gave back during the pandemic and who embraced the season-long campaign, “It takes all of us.”
That led to a pivotal Zoom video call on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.
“Oh. My. Goodness,” James, a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, said.
On the other end of the call was none other than Pro Football Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Steelers legend Jerome Bettis.
“Thank you for cheering for the black and gold, thank you for cheering for me,” Bettis said. “Most importantly though, we’d like to thank you for the amazing work you’ve done for your community and the wounded warrior community over the past year. To honor you, we’d like to invite you to Super Bowl LV as one of the honorary captains and participate in the coin toss moment.”
If only there were words to describe the look on James’ face at that moment.
“Thank you so much! I truly do appreciate it,” James said.
Less than a month later, James was standing on the 30-yard-line of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, with the eyes of the world on him, just minutes before the kickoff of Super Bowl LV.
A video shone on the jumbrotron behind him and on CBS’ worldwide broadcast. Presidential Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman recited her poem Chorus of the Captains, which highlighted all three honorary captains for their efforts during the pandemic.
Once again, James didn’t flinch. Instead, a pinch. Of himself. Just to make sure this entire experience was real.
“Everything since that first call, this has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’ll cherish this as long as I live,” James said.
You can watch more of James' story here.
Contact: Chris Obarski — Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.570.0823
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.