Written by Phil Cerroni
By Will Jukes
SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium hosted the 7th annual Patriot Cup supporting the Wounded Warrior Project. All ticket revenues for the March 1-2 event are donated to the project, a national program to support soldiers and veterans who suffered physical and psychological injuries in the line of duty.
The two day tournament featured local high school and college level lacrosse teams. Throughout the weekend, players and parents interacted with wounded veterans.
“This Wednesday, March 6 is actually going to be ten years, we call it an alive day, it's like a second birthday. Any soldier's going to tell you it's the day they narrowly escaped death,” said Ian Lennon, an Outreach Coordinator for the Wounded Warrior.
Lennon is a retired Marine and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where he drove a Motor T convoy, the military jargon for supply transport. He was severely wounded in Kuwait when the fuel truck he was driving was hit by an IED. He spent several years recovering, and now he works with the Wounded Warrior Project bringing that experience to recent combat veterans still struggling to cope with their injuries. He was invited to by the Patriot Cup both to perform ceremonial duties, such as the coin toss, as well as to speak with and motivate the players.
“Getting them pumped up for the game, give them a little pep talk before the game,” Lennon said, grinning.
He also emphasized the importance of connecting the community with wounded veterans, a duty he seemed happy to perform.
“It helps big time, because the warriors get to come out and speak to the kids, not only about their experiences in the military and stuff like that, but it gives a warrior a sense that the community cares,” he continued. “Just having a warrior's presence on the sideline, it really gets them pumped up to get into the game. Any way that I can get the word out to help my fellow Marines or Soldiers, it's great.”
“We help give soldiers benefits not necessarily provided by veterans’ affairs or the government,” said Tim Perkins, co-chair of the Patriot Cup.
Perkins has been working with the Patriot Cup for five years.
“Jamie Klementz, who had a son playing for Navy, brought Navy down to play another school two years in a row, and he had the idea of bringing big time lacrosse to Dallas,” Perkins continued.
To date, the event has raised over 50,000 dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project and is a major draw for the local lacrosse teams who are struggling to build a reputation. In a region of the country traditionally dominated by football, lacrosse is almost as foreign as cricket.
“Yesterday we had a crowd of 300 or 400, I think, for the SMU game—that's a much bigger crowd than they usually get,” Perkins said.
At the end of the day though, it's all about the soldiers.
“We help their families, we help them get back on their feet...serious burns, post-traumatic stress system, serious brain injuries because of the IED's,” Perkins shifted the conversation to a more serious note. “The Wounded Warrior Project has been a great help.”