The first time Washington resident Matt Mickunas donned a uniform was as a young boy scout 34 years ago. From there he quickly rose through the ranks of Eagle Scout to Sea Scout, then a student at the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps before signing his first enlistment contract at the age of 17. After serving for 24 years, Mickunas retired as a senior army infantry non-commissioned officer, and was soon hired as a field supervisor with Northwest Protective, overseeing Tacoma ports and the high-rise buildings in Seattle.
An active and outstanding participant in the Merging Vets and Players (MVP) program and regional president of the PNW Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, Mickunas was recognized this month as the Captain of the Seattle Seahawks Community, presented by Delta Air Lines.
“We are delighted to partner with the Seattle Seahawks to recognize community members who are already going above and beyond to make a positive impact, helping to develop empathy and understanding through their actions,” said Tony Gonchar, vice president of Delta Air Lines. President – Seattle, when the Community Captain campaign was first announced.
In appreciation of his impact, the Seattle Seahawks and Delta attended a recent MVP reunion to surprise Mickunas with the award. Mickunas received a Delta Community Captain soccer ball, a custom Seahawks jersey and was invited to attend the Salute to Service game against the Arizona Cardinals on November 21. Group conversation and donation of bottled water and new gym equipment on behalf of Delta Air Lines.
Mickunas suffered several physical and mental injuries in combat and training, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss and lower spine injuries, as well as complications from surgery. replacement of the spinal fusion that left him paralyzed. The lack of available support resources, Mickunas said, made him a very angry, anxious and deeply depressed veteran.
“Mental health services were available, but there was no real help for me,” he said. “No one was there to help my separate issues and deep depression as a crippled veteran with PTSD.”
Over the past five years, Mickunas has said he has lived in a state of deep uncertainty and allowed his emotions to build up inside him. But it hit a turning point when he stumbled upon “a group of what must have been the closest siblings I didn’t know yet” via the MVP program. By merging veterans and former professional athletes, the MVP program creates a supportive environment where individuals can share their strength and experience, and can support each other in transition, personal development and building a fulfilling life.
Mickunas found solace in two aspects of the MVP program: the workout and the “Huddle”. The weekly session begins with an exercise program designed to naturally stimulate endorphins and strengthen thought processes. The Huddle builds on this by facilitating a safe environment for members to share their vulnerabilities and allow them to speak freely about their experiences in a trustworthy space.
“My stress and attitude went down, my confidence grew and I felt like a different person all around,” Mickunas said. “It’s not just me going through this, it’s everyone helping each other out because we’re just in relationship.”
In addition to his weekly training sessions and Huddles with MVPs, Mickunas plans to continue volunteering with several veterans and community outreach organizations, as well as participating in recreational adapted sports and sports clinics. adapted.