There are close to 660,000 veterans living in Michigan. Around 70,000 of these servicemembers are receiving compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, while there are many more who are not accounted for. These disabilities range from mental health conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder, to physical injuries that have left veterans immobile.
Michigan Warriors program brings hope to veterans
Residents from Royal Oak, Michigan, believe that disabled servicemembers should be honored for their sacrifices. This is why the city is hosting this year's Guns & Hoses hockey game for the Michigan Warriors Hockey Program. According to HometownLife, the Michigan Warriors is a nonprofit organization that supports disabled veterans who want to play hockey, socialize and remain active after their injuries.
Since its start in 2010, the city's police and fire departments have faced off in the Guns & Hoses game. It has raised funds for a variety of charities, ranging from individual residents in need of support to statewide organizations. However, this year's charity is one of particular importance to Royal Oak Police Sgt. Patrick Stanton, a U.S. army veteran who started the hockey program with firefighter Tony Cattini.
Army veteran Josh Krajewski founded the Michigan Warriors in 2013, driven by his own desire to live life like he did before deployment after being injured. The hockey program for veterans is both developmental and competitive, catering to players of all skill levels.
Krajewski spent around four years fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, returning home in 2009. He told the Oakland Press that the focus of the program is not that the players were injured at war, but that they all came together to overcome hardships they had to face upon returning to life after service. Seeing his fellow veterans temporarily forget about their physical or mental disabilities is what makes the program so special.
"We are completely honored to be chosen by Guns & Hoses and we are going to try to get our whole team out for the game," Krajewski told the Royal Oak Press. "I'd never heard of Guns & Hoses until they contacted me about two months ago and said they wanted to donate to our program. I was absolutely floored by the gesture."
Firefighters and policemen face off for good cause
Stanton joined the players on the ice at one of their practices to see what the team was all about. He told the Royal Oak Press that it was clear the veterans were enjoying themselves and greatly benefiting from the sense of friendship that the program provides.
"We are playing for men and women who have served their nation with distinction," Stanton explained. "The game is an opportunity to support them, as well as watch some of Royal Oak's police and firefighters support the community and have some fun."
Since the annual game started, the firefighters and policemen have won an equal number of games, the policemen coming on top the last couple of competitions and the firefighters taking the first two.
The Guns & Hoses game has raised around $25,000 so far for its charities. One donation went to a Madison Heights police officer's family after he passed away from severe acute respiratory syndrome. Others were given to multiple autism organizations, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Canine Advocacy Program.
The game takes place on April 18 and charges viewers $10. All proceedings will go to the Michigan Warriors. Krajewski is excited to use the donation to keep his members playing throughout the upcoming season.