LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC STRATCOM
During Super Bowl weekend, more than 40 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members from the Fort Knox Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) and Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit—Illinois (CBWTU-IL) were invited to take part in two events: the Salute to Service at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, in Edinburgh, Indiana, and the National Football League Charities Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic in Indianapolis.
The trip kicked off on Thursday, February 2, as Soldiers traveled to Camp Atterbury for the NFL Salute to Service where they mingled with NFL players and got autographs and photos with NFL players and Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders.
The next day, Soldiers traveled to Indianapolis where they took part in the NFL Experience, an interactive professional football theme park with participatory games, displays, entertainment, and autograph sessions.
The highlight of Super Bowl weekend was the NFL Legends Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic which took place at the Woodland Bowling Center on Saturday.
The bowling classic, an NFL fan favorite, features about 50 current and retired NFL players. Participants range from professional Football Hall of Fame members, to star-studded celebrities, corporate philanthropists, business owners, and local citizens. The Bowling Classic was full of fun, food, and friendly competition. As guests of honor, the wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and cadre from the WTB and CBWTU-IL were invited to share the stage with the players during the opening ceremony. Surrounded by a multitude of NFL greats and celebrities, they were recognized for their service and contributions to the country. The Soldiers also enjoyed an up-close and personal experience bowling with NFL greats and other celebrities. In teams of four, the Soldiers played alongside Joe DeLamielleure, actor and NFL player, Fred “the Hammer” Williamson, and actress Sandra Taylor. Each Soldier played two games with their celebrity team captains and met a host of NFL legends.
“This is a great experience.” said SSG Lani Balama. “It’s not often an individual gets to meet more than one NFL player from more than one team in one location.”
On August 18, 2011, during a dismounted patrol in Afghanistan, Balama was wounded when he took shrapnel to both legs and his left elbow after a hand grenade landed approximately four inches from his left foot. He hopes to return to his unit soon and to perform all of his assigned duties. Balama currently works as a mentor at the Ft. Knox WTB and has orders to become a squad leader. This position will enable him to continue his treatments and assist other Soldiers who are in recovery.
CBWTU-IL cadre member SFC Anthony Costa shared his thoughts about the trip as well. “This is a great opportunity to meet the stars and talk to a lot of different people. To see NFL players and all of these organizations come out and support the military is really great. Being able to share our stories and experiences is big. Everyone’s endearing attitude toward us and what Soldiers everywhere have done has been the highlight of my day.”
CBWTU-IL is a remote care unit, allowing Soldiers to recover in their hometowns, close to the support systems of their Families and communities. It serves Soldiers from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa. Costa served for 18 years and worked with the CBWTU-IL for four years.
Coach Charlie Hatcher, host of Sports Inside and Out, produced a live radio broadcast during the bowling classic.
These pre-Super Bowl events were a touchdown with the Soldiers.