Get An Assist This Veteran's Day by @ToonsBrian - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Get An Assist This Veteran's Day by @ToonsBrian

To all the veterans of the United States Armed Forces, we at Pens Initiative would like to extend a warm and heartfelt "Thank You" on this Veteran's Day.

There are many aspects of the military mentality that play out in the sport of hockey. Self-sacrifice for the greater good of the team shows through in every shot-blocking attempt. Playing through pain, pulling their own teeth if need be to stay out and fight. Traveling far from your loved ones to do the work you've trained extensively for. Players trusting their teammates to accomplish their mission while carrying that same burden of expectation for themselves.

Athletes of every sport go through these same battles to some degree. These same athletes can rarely "go it alone" and look to their fellow teammates, and even fans, to offer support and hope in their version of a down time.

In the end, the athletes who sacrifice the most to win the highest accolades of their respective sport become our heroes. Their faces are etched in our minds for decades. Their deeds exaggerated for the sake of story-telling. Our dreams replacing their faces with our own for the sake of fulfilling our conscious and subconscious desires to be that revered.

The Soldiers who sacrifice so much more rarely get that kind of treatment. We don't rush out to buy their jerseys. We don't often think of their sacrifices until a holiday reminds us to do so. Or some tragic event forces it to the front of our minds once more. We remember their uniforms, but rarely the person wearing it.

We don't often think of the families they leave behind to risk much more. The children born while they're half a world away. The everyday household chores that become every-other-week household chores as one half of the parental unit is temporarily replaced with unshakeable uncertainty. "Temporarily," in this case, is the best-case scenario.

What happens to a Soldier who "loses" is something that few of us fully understand. We casually ignore the fact that when they come home these warriors carry the burden of every nick, every bruise, every fear and horror they experienced during their time in service. Their families carry that burden.

There are things that each of us can do to help our Soldiers. And many of the NHL's teams work either directly or indirectly with Veteran's families and military charities. Here are just a few:

The Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org)
     The US Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that approximately 13% of the nation's homeless are Veterans. This is a staggering number considering that less than 0.5% of the US population actually serve in the military.
     The Salvation Army reaches out to help those who need it most by providing things like disability assistance, clothing, food, shelters and the like.
     The Penguins and many other teams around the league help with The Salvation Army's efforts throughout the year.

Defending The Blue Line (www.defendingtheblueline.org)
DTBL Charity Game
     Defending The Blue Line is an organization that focuses on helping the families of military. DTBL provides children of these families with free hockey equipment, access to hockey camps and tickets to games of all levels.
     Great hockey organizations help DTBL to accomplish this. Equipment is provided by the NHLPA, Easton and Graf Canada. Also, tickets to events are provided by 17 of the NHL's 30 teams, including the Pens, and many ECHL affiliates. Private donations are also accepted at their website.

Courage Caps (www.capitals.nhl.com)
     Every season, the Washington Capitals sell a line of hars and shirts called "Courage Caps." This is a non-profit effort and the teams sends all proceeds to a different military charity each year. Last season, the effort resulted in a donation of over $100 to TAPS, a national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America's fallen military heroes.
    Well, done, Division rival. Well done.

These are just a few of the numerous charities that NHL teams help throughout the year. Many players individually help a number of other charities as well.

Do yourself, our Veterans and our Veterans' families a favor: donate, volunteer and spread the word.

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