Professional Baseball Player Justin Verlander Forms Wins For Warriors

Posted September 19, 2013

By: Barbara Van Dahlen, Give An Hour Founder

Got Your 6 is an important campaign that unites the entertainment industry with top veteran-focused nonprofit organizations. The goal of the campaign is to bridge the civilian-military divide by creating a new conversation in America, so that veterans and military families are perceived as leaders and civic assets. Give an Hour is proud to be the Activation Partner for the Health Pillar of this critical effort.

For better or worse, the opinions and perspectives of those in the entertainment industry have a huge impact on our collective consciousness. And like Hollywood celebrities, well-known professional athletes have tremendous appeal and significant power in our culture. By taking a stand on an issue or by choosing a cause to support, they can raise awareness and, sometimes, they can shape our shared response. Regardless of how we might feel about Lance Armstrong’s other choices in life, his decision to attach his name to the Live Strong campaign and organization has had a profound effect on our view of cancer and survival. So many men, women, and families have benefited because of Mr. Armstrong’s willingness to become the face of their struggle and a champion for their fight.

Justin Verlander, who wears number 35 for the Detroit Tigers, has long been considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. In 2006, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year. On June 12, 2007, Mr. Verlander pitched his first no-hitter—which also happened to be the first ever at Detroit’s Comerica Park—and on May 7, 2011, he pitched a second no-hitter in Toronto against the Blue Jays. On November 15, 2011, he was named the 2011 American League Cy Young Award winner by a unanimous vote and, not surprisingly, the 2011 season ended with Mr. Verlander being named the American League’s Most Valuable Player MVP. These accomplishments have led David Waldstein of the New York Times to comment that Justin Verlander is “indeed one of the best pitchers of his generation.”

Anyone who has seen him on the mound, knows that Justin Verlander is an exceptional athlete and a fierce competitor. He is also a compassionate and generous philanthropist. On August 28, he announced the formation of his new foundation, Wins for Warriors. For several years he has been quietly supporting returning troops and their families by inviting veterans in Detroit to watch some of the Tigers’ home games from his private suite at the ballpark. The launch of his foundation—which will initially focus on the communities in and around Detroit, Michigan; Norfolk, Virginia; and Richmond, Virginia—is an extension of his desire to provide critical assistance to those who have served our country. Perhaps even more impressive than Mr. Verlander’s decision to form a foundation to support the military and veteran community is his choice to focus the foundation’s work on the mental health issues—those invisible injuries—that sometimes come home with those who go to war.

Give an Hour is proud to join Justin Verlander and the Wins for Warriors Foundation in the effort to create a comprehensive and integrated system of care for those who serve and their families. We are eager to bring our expertise and our experience to Detroit, Norfolk, and Richmond to identify those in need, to provide critical mental health care, and to organize the communities that are ready to serve them. And we are equally excited to work on this initiative with our Got Your 6 colleagues at The Mission Continues, a wonderful organization that provides opportunities—through fellowships—to veterans who want to continue to serve in their communities. The Mission Continues will play a key role in the development of the Wins for Warriors initiative.

In addition to the financial assistance that Justin Verlander brings to this effort, his participation creates a valuable opportunity to engage a larger audience in a conversation about the understandable mental health issues that sometimes affect those who serve our nation. By encouraging conversations and by educating our country about these complex issues, we increase the likelihood that our service members and veterans are seen accurately. By dispelling myths and raising awareness, we will ensure that those who are in need will receive the support and services they deserve.

When asked why he decided to focus on the invisible injuries of war, Mr. Verlander expressed his belief that he is able to play the sport that he loves because of the men and women who serve our nation. He noted the high rate of mental health symptoms affecting those who have experienced combat and he stated that creating Wins for Warriors is his way of giving back, of doing his part, for those who have sacrificed so much for all of us.
Just by acknowledging the importance of addressing the mental health piece of the reintegration puzzle, Justin Verlander is helping to reduce the stigma that has traditionally prevented many from speaking up or seeking care. Some of those within the military community will experience Mr. Verlander’s statements and comments as recognition of their pain and encouragement for their journey. And for those baseball fans who have never given much thought to the issues that affect those who serve and their families, they may become a bit more aware, they may be inspired to join an effort in their own communities that supports those coming home, or even better they might decide to reach out personally to get to know a veteran or military family member who lives near them or works beside them.

Justin Verlander has stepped up to assist and support those who serve at a time when many within our country will be turning away. As those of us who work to address the mental health needs of our military community know all too well, these wars will have very long tails. We cannot yet know the true magnitude or impact of ten-plus years of war on the men, women, children, and families who have born the brunt of these conflicts. Indeed, this is a perfect time for someone of Justin Verlander’s stature to add his voice to this conversation. And we thank him for his service.