American veterans who have lost arms or legs in service continue to be an inspiration as they participate in the annual flag football game against NFL alumni players.
Ahead of Super Bowl 56, the Stars & Stripes Bowl was presented by North American Motor Car to support veterans advocate group Sierra Delta and hip hop superstar Snoop Dogg's Special Stars youth football team.
BJ Ganem, a former US Marine whose leg was amputated following a tour in Iraq, is also the founder of Sierra Delta, an advocacy group that helps veterans through service dogs. He says he is thankful for the opportunity to play with NFL legends like Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner.
"So we come together to celebrate these two great missions but also show America’s favorite sport, football, right before the biggest game of the favorite sport, how this game can help other communities that we care about," Ganem said.
The veterans also advocate for amputees like Marine Corps Staff Sergeant John Edward Heath who was hit by a drunk driver while in service.
"I had 12 lower extremity surgeries. They wanted to do 13 but I opted out and got an amputation. I got amputated May 21, 2021," Heath shared. "I think the best message for anyone whether you’re an amputee or not is that everyone has problems. It’s okay not being okay. Everyone needs to understand that there [are] hurdles to jump but there is a better side after that hurdle."
Meanwhile, Ganem noted that despite the current socio-political turmoil, the game is an example of how people from all walks of life can band together and overcome adversity.
"Yelling and screaming at each other is not going to work. None of us are going anywhere so we got to figure out how to live together and thrive together at the end of the day," Ganem stressed.
Snoop Dogg's Special Stars and Sierra Delta received $10,000 each to help continue their programs.