Having grown up in a military family, and serving as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve himself, New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona has seen the conversation about the mental health of veterans evolve.
By dedicating his My Cause, My Cleats to the Home Base Foundation, he hopes to help further the work they're doing to address those invisible wounds of war.
"When you were in the military you were equipped with skills to complete a job that was vitally important for our national security – this huge mission," Cardona said. "Sometimes we need to re-equip ourselves to deal with the problems we face on a day-to-day basis."
Home Base is a national nonprofit that serves veterans, service members, military families, and families of the fallen through clinical care, wellness, education and research – regardless of service, discharge status, or geographical location.
Founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Red Sox, Home Base has served more than 30,000 veterans and their family members and trained over 85,000 clinicians across the nation to ensure a brighter future for service members of all eras.
With more than 100 thousand veterans dying by suicide since 2001 alone, Home Base is among organizations leading the way to combat the epidemic.
"You're asking 18 year olds, very young people, to do a difficult job and focus all their energy and attention on it," Cardona said. "That's extremely hard in itself. There might not be time to focus or worry about some of those things, but when you come back from that environment, and you go back to your own home communities or you're away from your units, you see guys and girls that are really struggling with losing that sense of community, losing that sense of mission. That needs to be addressed. We need to find ways to keep those individuals in the fight, and make sure they know that they're still an asset and valuable to our society."
Along with Cardona, Patriots equipment staffer and army veteran Brad Walker will use the NFL initiative to raise awareness for Home Base's mission.
"Representing home base is representing an organization that's on the forefront of addressing a number of issues within the veteran community," Cardona said.
"Them doing it here in Boston, with MGH, really directs those funds and efforts raised to give them the best resources possible to address these big issues -- weather it's TBI, mental health, suicide awareness -- all these things that are prevalent in the veteran community once we leave the service. For me, being a part of this New England community, it means even more to know that they're doing the work here."