As a US Army Combat Veteran, a Peer Support Group (Combat Veterans) Leader, and a member of my community, I understand first-hand some of the struggles that some Veterans deal with on a day to day basis. My name is Carlos De León, I served in the US Army for almost 10 years. I served two tours in Iraq and I am a Purple Heart recipient. One of the primary reasons I joined the Army was to serve my country; that being said, I now have a void after retiring.
A local non-profit organization “City Streets 2 Student Athletes” (CS2SA), has provided local Veterans and myself the opportunity to continue our service by allowing us to coach and mentor young student-athletes and share the vast experience we collected throughout our time of service.
Please allow me the opportunity to give you some background on City Streets 2 Student Athletes. The first Veterans L.D.R.S.H.I.P Beach Challenge took place in 2015 on our very own beaches in Jacksonville, Florida. I came up with the concept simply because I was asked if I wanted to attend the Veterans day parade last year, stand on a float, and wave to the community as they thanked us for our sacrifices. For some Veterans that may be the way they want to spend that day, I on the other hand prefer tribute for what we continue to do, and that is to remain committed serving in our community and to help make a difference back home.
On November 12, 2016, City Streets 2 Student Athletes (CS2SA) and Veterans of the Northeast Florida community were able to host our Second Annual “Veterans L.D.R.S.H.I.P Beach Challenge.” Veterans and Student-Athletes were able to come together to continue Honoring our Veterans; Past, Present, Wounded, and Fallen. Our event is based off of the US Army’s L.D.R.S.H.I.P Acronym which stands for Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Our event is designed to test each student-athletes physical and mental fortitude. Through a series of different exercise stations, we are given the opportunity to not only demonstrate the exercise and make sure they conduct each exercise correctly and safely but we are also able to get some mentorship in by letting the student-athletes know about our service and how each exercise ties in to military values which can definitely benefit them in their own lives. To name a few of our exercise stations, we have stations like the “Firemen Carry”, which teaches the student-athletes the concept of never leaving anyone behind, 4-Man Box Push-up- If they do not work as a team they will struggle to get 5 simple pushups done together. Another station which is dear to a lot of us Veterans was the Sandbag Suicides which allowed us to bring awareness about the problems with the suicide rates in our country and not only in our Veteran community but at times even in these same schools that the student-athletes attend.
We conducted a fun tug of war competition which is all about Integrity, no one will know if you are doing your job, only you. It was a little too fun, we put some student-athletes against the Coaches and they won fair and square (So they say). We finished up that portion of the event with a small cadence run on the beach. Lastly, we finished with our battle station, which consisted of some low crawling, jumping over walls, ropes, latters, grabbing their sandbags and building a wall with sandbags. The student-athletes, Veterans, and City Streets 2 Student Athlete Coaches were treated to a speech by Mr. Adam Silva, a US Army Veteran and Lacrosse Coach.
This was our second year in a row putting together this life impacting event and impacting it was, not only for the student-athletes but also for these Veterans that were given this great opportunity. We also did this for our fellow Veterans in the community, we can only hope that by being part of such a greater cause, that we are able to be an example to other Veterans and be a positive impact in their lives especially those who are struggling.
The day is wrapped up by a group huddle where I, SSG Carlos De León along with Coach Rodney Blunt (CS2SA President) and Coach Jason Martinez had some final remarks and we thanked everyone for coming out and we also explained our reason behind our event. Lastly, on behalf of the CS2SA and Veteran coaches, we were able to present each student athlete with a L.D.R.S.H.I.P Award for their participation in our event.
Our goal is to continue to grow and host many more awesome camps and to continue impacting lives of student-athletes as well as our fellow comrades.
This event will continue to help empower our community and our Veterans to engage more student athletes on a more direct path to success.
On behalf of CS2SA and Veterans assisting on this event I would like to thank you for taking the time to learn more about what our mission is on this day.
SSG Carlos M De León Jr
US Army, Retired
Wounded Warrior Project Alumni