News: Former NFL players help Marines, sailors tackle stress
Story by Lance Cpl. Michelle Brinn
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.- For an NFL player, a multi-million dollar contract may seem like it takes care of everything in comparison to the average Marine’s daily lifestyle and paycheck.
What some may not realize, however, is that the lifestyle of a professional football player and a service member are not as different as they seem.
“Being an [NFL player] is a very structured environment; kind of like the military,” said Skip Hicks, a former running back for the Washington Redskins. “You never have to think about things like health insurance, in case you get hurt or sick. The transition [from the NFL] was a huge culture shock.”
Hicks, along with other former players from the NFL Players Association, came to Camp Pendleton’s South Mesa Club to discuss common reintegration challenges service members are faced with, as well as the tools and resources available to address them, Jan. 15.
The “Game Day” event was hosted by the Real Warriors Campaign, an initiative of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and traumatic brain injury, to help former NFL players join Marines, sailors and their families to watch football, socialize and discuss the importance of reaching out for support during life transitions.
“The NFL Players Association finds local players or players who are interested, that want to help,” said Cmdr. George Durgin, resilience division chief of the Defense Centers of Excellence. “They come here because they want to share what happens to them and encourage Marines to seek help if they need it.”
Hicks explained how pride can often times get in the way of seeking out help or guidance during stressful times.
“Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help,” Hicks said. “It’s okay to ask; if you don’t, your pride will kill you. Always listen to your family members and the people around you because they will tell you the truth. If they are telling you there is a problem, listen to them.”
Durgin, who served in Desert Storm, said he was faced with post-traumatic stress disorder when he returned from deployment.
“I reached out for help because I knew I needed it,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for it. The [Real Warriors Campaign] helps with all types of issues, not just PTSD. Any type of daily stressor can impact and Marine at any time, and we’re here to help them recover.”
Lance Cpl. Clark Sabo, a telephone and computer system repairman with Combat Logistics Regiment 17, suffered from a nerve disease in June 2011 that attacked his back and shoulder nerves.
“I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder and I have to walk with crutches,” Sabo explained. “You can’t repair nerve damage.”
Sabo said that after attending the event he’s now more aware of the programs available to service members to help with their life transitions as well as recovery for any type of injury or illness.
“The important part about today was just knowing that we can reach out to [service members] and encourage them to talk about their problems,” said Hicks. “I’ll feel fulfilled knowing that I at least made an impression on one person and hopefully from there it will have the domino effect.”