Before the Seahawks celebrated their record-setting 58-0 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, a much different, but equally compassionate celebration was taking place on field level at CenturyLink Field.
Craig and Matt Steichen, a father-son duo hailing from Chicago, Ill. were in town as part of their “All 32 in 17″ journey aimed at touring the homes of all 32 NFL teams in one 17 week season, while honoring the nation’s military along the way. At each stop the Steichen’s host a pair of guests from the Wounded Warrior Project, setting up welcoming parties for the Warriors in every city on gameday.
Yesterday, Craig and Matt were joined by Wounded Warriors Trevor Phillips and Shawn Graves at the expedition’s 30th stop – Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. Phillips lost part of his right arm after an incident in Iraq in May of 2004 and has undergone several surgeries to help him heal. And Graves sustained his injuries in September 2004 while stationed in Iraq when his lunch hall was hit by a suicide bombing that killed 21 people (14 soldiers, 7 civilians), and wounded more than 80 others, including Graves, whose chest and abdomen were torn apart.
“This has been the most life-changing experience,” said Matt Steichen, Craig’s son, who works a 40-hour-a-week job back in Chicago between stadium trips. “I’ve never been a part of something so amazing. There will be days when I go into work on no sleep for two days, but it’s 100 percent worth it. When you get to sit at these games and hang out with our nation’s heroes – it’s amazing.”
Matt says touring the homes of all 32 NFL teams was on his and his father’s bucket list, but seeing them all in one season and involving the Wounded Warrior Project was an inspiration from his uncle.
“My uncle served,’ said Matt. “We decided that if we do this, we don’t want to do it for ourselves. So we looked into a couple of different things and landed on the Wounded Warrior Project. We had no idea it was going to take off the way it did.”
Matt’s father, Craig, admits the journey started off slow.
“The first three or four weeks were a little challenging, but once we got rolling and started realizing what it was meaning to the Warriors it made it a lot of easier,” said Craig. “We’ve seen 60 smiles on 60 guys faces over the last three months.
“And for me, as a father, the father and son time is a really good thing for me – and three of our Wounded Warrior guests have been a father and son combination. I have a double-emotional time as I’m watching our heroes have a great day, watching (Matt) have a blast. So it’s really cool.”
The father-son pair will wrap-up their journey this week as they pay a visit to the final two teams on their list – a Sunday stop in Cleveland for the Browns game against the Washington Redskins on December 16 followed by a drive south for the Tennessee Titans Monday Night Football matchup against the New York Jets on December 17. And as their journey wraps up, they call for all of their followers and friends that they’ve gained to take some time and to “pay it forward.”
“That’s the message, I think, do something to pay it forward,” said Craig. “When we hear a Wounded Warrior say at the end of the day, ‘This is one of the best days of my life’ – we did our job.”
For more information on how you can get involved with the Wounded Warrior Project head to www.woundedwarriorproject.org and to learn more about Craig and Matt’s “All 32 in 17″ journey be sure “Like” them on Facebook, give them a follow on Twitter, or check out their website, where you can view short bios of all of the Wounded Warriors they have hosted this season.