Every Seahawks home game is an opportunity for fans to be a part of honoring and celebrating veterans ultimate sacrifice.
“The impetus behind celebrating veterans and their families is that Paul Allen wanted this team to be a force on and off the field,” said Mike Flood, Vice President of Community Outreach for the Seahawks. “He’s been a big supporter of the military effort and ensuring that we are one of the best in the league at saluting military members and their families.”
The NFL’s year-round military appreciation efforts culminate in November with NFL Salute to Service games and other special events honoring veterans, active duty service members, and their families. The Seahawks honored veterans in their Nov. 20 game against the Atlanta Falcons. But the team’s respect doesn’t end in November.
Whenever the Seahawks play at home, they reserve tickets for veterans who want to re-enlist in the South End Zone.
“The service member brings in their re-enlist paperwork and their re-enlisting officer and gives the oath surrounded by a military contingent in uniform while the players are warming up in the background,” said Flood, who is a retired Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard. “It’s a memorable way for people to re-enlist.”
The team has also designated six “Heroes of 12” stadium seats to honor military members. The camouflaged seats feature the emblems of all five U.S. Military service branches and are located in the lower bowl.
“During the third quarter, we bring someone to the North End Zone to salute them and their service and let the fans know why that person is there,” Flood explained. “A lot of these thing we do are meant to highlight the price that people have paid for freedom, the commitment that men and women have made for this country.”
Since 2012, the Seahawks’ annually honor a military unit with a “12” flag as the team’s partnered military unit for the season. The ceremony mirrors a deep-rooted military tradition, the change of command ceremony, where an outgoing commander formally transitions responsibility and authority of a unit to a new commander.
This year, JBLM’s 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) accepted the honor as the team’s military partner for this year.
Flood says honoring service members throughout the year is a real team effort, but there’s a MVP behind The Seahawks’ commitment to year-round military appreciation that goes well beyond the yearly Salute to Service game.
That special person is decorated veteran, Armando Mejia, Assistant Director of Community Outreach for the Seahawks.
In 2004, Mejia was in Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in was hit by an IED. The vehicle was blown upside down, crushing his legs and pinning his arm. Ultimately, he would endure 22 surgeries.
Mejia says everything he does now for the military is his way of giving back and recounts simple kindnesses that meant so much to him after his accident. The doctor told him they were going to try to save his legs and his Commanding Officer asked him if he needed anything.
“A Pepsi,” Mejia said, “because I was just so thirsty. Out of everything, all I wanted was something really cold to drink.”
When Mejia awoke, the first thing he saw was a six-pack of Pepsi waiting for him.
“I remember a USO lady, a very elderly lady walking around with a little cart. She had magazines and cookies. She comes by and says, ‘how you doing? I have some magazines for you to read or I can read them to you. Or, I have cookies, but I see you’re on a strict diet.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God a homemade chocolate chip cookie and she grabbed two cookies and slipped them under my sheets and said, ‘you didn’t get them from me.’”
Mejia says those experiences and his love of the military shape everything he is doing now for veterans and their families.