ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2018) – In celebration of the 2018 Pro Bowl, the NFL hosted a special event for warriors served by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Over 40 wounded veterans attended and enjoyed flag football, a barbecue lunch, and a chance to interact with former and current NFL stars. The event was part of the NFL’s year-round Salute to Service, which in 2017 provided financial support to one of WWP’s mental health programs.
“It’s always special to be able to get out with other warriors, be part of the team, and connect with them,” said Rebecca Benton, a Marine Corps veteran. “Wounded Warrior Project has always been a blessing to me. I tend to isolate a lot, and the other warriors call me out on it. They’ll invite me to go out to supper or to do an event. Wounded Warrior Project staff check up on me too. It’s a great support structure.”
Warriors competitively shouted taunts and encouragement at each other on the field and from the sidelines. Midway through the day, NFL players, including Jason Witten, Russell Wilson, and Graham Gano, showed up to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
WWP connection events like this give wounded warriors an opportunity to experience veteran peer support firsthand. These social gatherings get them out of the house and connect them with fellow service members and their communities. WWP meets warriors in all stages of recovery and provides resources to help the transition back to civilian life.
“The events I have been to with Wounded Warrior Project, including this one, have built my support network,” Rebecca said. “I now have so many people I can reach out to, no matter what. I lost my identity when I got off active duty, and Wounded Warrior Project helped me rediscover who I am.”
Rebecca is a big Philadelphia Eagles fan, and was overcome with emotion in a surprise moment – the Eagles mascot “Swoop” gave her a special memento of the day, right off his neck.
“This Eagles lanyard was handed to me by the mascot,” Rebecca said. “It’s such a simple thing, but it was honestly so touching I thought I might start to cry. It was one of the highlights of my day.”
Rebecca attended the event with her husband Bohanan “Bo” Benton, a fellow WWP warrior and Marine Corps veteran, and their children. As they watched the flag football game and posed for pictures with players and mascots, Rebecca reflected on the importance of their attendance.
“I think it’s good for our children to recognize they didn’t grow up as the only kids with parents gone all the time,” Rebecca said. “For them, it’s nice to connect with other kids like them and see that they’re normal. For them being here, it’s like being surrounded by family as well.”
Generous donors and supporters enable WWP to serve warriors by connecting them with programs and services that empower them to live their lives on their terms, free of charge. To learn more, visit https://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org.
Contact: Mattison Brooks – Public Relations