With football season less than a week away, teams are busy getting their players into top form – but that did not stop the Baltimore Ravens from spending time with injured veterans from Wounded Warrior Project on day two of their rigorous training camp.
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Forty veterans and family members were invited to spend the day at M&T Bank Stadium, where they were treated to an exclusive sneak peek at the team’s on-field play. Participants got to meet their favorite players, pose for pictures, and get autographs before enjoying a barbecue lunch.
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It was a particularly big day for wounded warrior and sports fan Earlene O’Brien. A former Chief Master at Arms, she ran security at U.S. Naval Academy football games from 2012 to 2016. The trip to the training camp helped her accomplish a longtime goal.
“I was able to meet my all-time favorite college player Keenan Reynolds, who played at the Naval Academy during my time there,” she said. “I purchased a Navy football and have been trying to obtain his autograph for quite some time. He came over and autographed my ball, and he gave me a hug when he found out I was a Navy Chief.”
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Earlene said she felt overwhelmed by the showing of support from the Ravens and their head coach, John Harbaugh.
“I appreciated that they took the time after such a grueling practice to come and visit with us, even thanking us for all we do,” she said. “There was overwhelming love and support from Coach Harbaugh, who came out to tell us we were always welcome there.”
Army veteran and Ravens fan Tim Morgan, who attended the program event with his 8-year-old son Brayden, admitted he was star-struck when he got the chance to meet the coach.
“I was cool, calm, and collected all day until I met him, then I became a giggling idiot,” he said. “Watching Coach Harbaugh teach my son how to receive a handoff was amazing. He spent extra time with all of us and made sure he saw everyone there with WWP. John’s an amazing guy.”
WWP program activities support the needs of warriors by getting them out of the house and reintroducing them and their families to the bonds they forged during military service. By minimizing isolation and encouraging socialization among peers, these activities can keep warriors on the path to recovery.
“It is extremely important for warriors and their families to get involved with activities like this,” Earlene said. “They are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that bring life back into us warriors, and that is what I felt while alongside the Baltimore Ravens, being thanked for my military service.”
Tim credits these outings for being a monumental part of his healing journey.
“They’re taking vets like me out of the house and letting us make new connections,” he said. “These connections are better than any medicine. One huge reason I am now painkiller-free is because of the friends I’ve met at WWP gatherings. It’s great to go somewhere and know the people you’re with are just like you and can talk to you without any judgement.”
WWP staff were part of the group that day, interacting with attendees and advising them of additional programs and services to assist their recovery. Support from generous donors makes these resources available to the wounded veterans WWP serves at no cost.