Verlander announces second veteran initiative, to support mental health of post-9/11 vets
“Some of my best friends from back there are in the Navy, serve in the Navy,” said the Detroit Tigers star, who already has one program designed to help veterans out, and Wednesday announced another.
“It’s just kind of bred into you. It’s become part of the culture. You just kind of start to live and breathe it, and even if you’re not serving, you respect it.”
Adding to his Verlander’s Victory for Veterans program, the 30-year-old pitcher announced a new program, Wins For Warriors, designed to assist in the support for the mental health of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts in the Detroit, Richmond and Norfolk, Va., areas
Along with the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an arm of Ilitch Charities, Verlander committed $1 million to the initiative. The funds will be distributed through the national organizations Give An Hour and The Mission Continues.
While Verlander’s Victory for Veterans is a way for the pitcher to give back to veterans, inviting a group of them to sit in his suite on days he pitches at home, his second project is a more direct way to help fight against some of the problems associated with combat veterans.
“These men and women are taught to be brave and strong, and when they come home, they’re not going to be the first ones to raise their hands and say ‘Hey, I need help.’ So we need to go out there and extend our arm and try to help these men and women,” he said.
“I think the stats show it: one in three post-9/11 veterans need support. That’s a staggering number. And it’s not just the men and women that served, it’s their families as well, that need the help. And, like I said, they’re not going to just throw up their hand and say they need it. So this is kind of a great way to be able to help, like I said, kind of extend your arm and help these men and women.”
Verlander does come from a military family, with a first cousin, Christopher, who has served multiple tours of duty, and a grandfather, Richard, who was a World War II veteran.
“But that’s not the sole reason I’m doing this. Obviously that’s part of it. For me, this is something that I care a lot about, and I’m passionate about, and I want to show that,” he said.
“I can’t say necessarily one person, or one thing. To be honest with you, it’s kind of been just a build-up over the years, especially since I started Verlander’s Victory for Veterans. The feedback I got from that, inside the community, was just tremendous. Many people coming up to me, telling me they appreciated the support for the veterans. Some past veterans who would come up to me, on the street, just in passing and (say), ‘Hey, thank you for what you do.’
“That’s something that means a lot to me.
“This is something that I’m passionate about. I’m in a very fortunate opportunity now, and I feel like I wouldn’t be here, if not for these men and women, so this is my way to give back.”