May 23, 2018 07:19 PM
The United States Military has been called the best team on planet earth, but often times veterans find it difficult to assimilate back to civilian life when they leave the military.
"I can't really match it with anything else, it gave me tools to develop me into the man I am today," states Matt Fratto.
Fratto was in the navy for eight years and spent four years on a guided missile destroyer.
"I had many positions when I left the military in the civilian world, but the closest that I felt that camaraderie to the military is through refereeing."
'Battlefields 2 Ballfields' is a non-profit foundation started by former NFL Referee Mike Pereira. The foundation pays for uniforms, training and association dues for veterans who want to learn to be referees.
"It's very good for any veteran who's looking to find purpose, " states Jamieson Pilgreen.
Jamieson Pilgreen is another local veteran who is in the 'Battlefields 2 Ballfields' program. He spent 20 years in the military and retired in 2015.
He still has one of his helmets on his desk at work, complete with a bullet ricochet mark.
He says, "I was looking for: structure, purpose, direction and camaraderie. That's the biggest thing I was missing in my life."
After leaving the military he suffered from PTSD. Becoming a referee helped him tremendously. He adds, "my rock bottom was being institutionalized involuntarily for overdose on muscle relaxers and alcohol. I was at a point where I was looking for help."
Help for veterans doesn't just come in the form of scholarships and training. Battlefields 2 Ballfields also sets up the veterans with an official from their local area who acts as a mentor.
"It's giving them a sense of returning from their other life, their military life with a passion," added Former NFL Official Jimmy Debell.
Debell is the mentor for Battlefields 2 Ballfields veterans in the Rochester area.
"If you could be a teammate in the military, you could certainly be in a team situation on the football field."
Debell spent six years on NFL sidelines but says he's most proud of his role with Battlefields 2 Ballfields.
"My father helped make me the man I am, it makes me feel good that now that I'm retired from teaching, coaching and officiating. I'm giving back to the two things who made me who I am," says Debell.
The program brings jobs for veterans and brings in officials for games within local communities. Its a win, win for all involved.
"Without this program I would probably still be trying to find my way."
A lot of guys, when they get out, don't have that support system. A lot are disabled and can't work, so they don't have an occupation to feel self-worth. Battlefields 2 Ballfields brings them back into a team environment, working together for a common goal. It renews self-worth and makes an impact on many veterans.
Updated: May 23, 2018 07:19 PM
Created: May 23, 2018 06:00 PM
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