As I write this, I am getting ready to hop on a plane out to Las Vegas to cover the live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter for CBSSports.com. However, less than 24 hours ago I returned from Fayetteville, North Carolina where I was covering the special “UFC Fight for the Troops” event for CBS Sports.
While I am looking forward to the TUF finale, it’s simply not going to compare to the amazing experience I had while at Fort Bragg. Specifically, I was there to write an article highlighting the five veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who competed on the card (that article is now available on CBSSports.com by clicking here).
I was not only able to get their perspective of what it meant to them to be competing at such an event, but I was able to see what life was like on a major military installation and see the impact the UFC had by hosting a show just minutes from Fort Bragg.
Many of the 10,000-plus that attended Wednesday’s event were not only members of the United States Army that are based out of Fort Bragg, but many of them have served our country during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The event served as a respite for them from their day-to-day duties of protecting and serving our great nation.
The UFC was nothing short of spectacular putting on this event, which extended beyond just UFN 16. The day prior, the UFC held its weigh-ins at the Sports USA Bar located on Fort Bragg. Prior to weigh-ins there was a huge autograph signing that featured Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Though scheduled to last three hours, the signing actually went well past four hours as none of the fighters wanted to disappoint all of the troops that had showed up to meet them.
After the signing, UFC President Dana White then held a special Q&A session. Before asking their questions, it seemed as though every solider that asked a question first showed their gratitude by thanking White for bringing the UFC. After the session was over, White took pictures and signed autographs for anyone who wanted one — and there were a lot of people that did.
During the event itself, White, Liddell, Couture, Brock Lesnar and Arianny Celeste all mingled with the troops between fights by shaking hands, taking pictures, and signing more autographs.
While the event provided an escape for the troops, the primary goal of the event was to raise funding for a new medical facility being built by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. After opening a facility last year to help treat veterans recovering from physical injuries sustained during roadside bomb attacks, it was determined that another facility was needed to help treat brain injuries that occur in the line of fire.
I had a chance to meet with organizers of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to get more information on just exactly what life is like for a veteran who is suffering from a traumatic brain injury. To hear the tales of how so many lives have been adversely altered while serving this country was sobering, to say the least. These men and women make the ultimate sacrifice for us but when in a lot of ways the support they provide to us is not being reciprocated by the government they help serve to protect.
While speaking with Bill White, the president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, he walked a fine line in being critical of the government. However, he made it clear that not enough is being done and that taking care of those who take care of us isn’t something we should leave in the hands of the government. The injuries that our soldiers are suffering from cannot wait — they need treatment now.
The economy is in bad shape right now and a lot of people don’t have money to give. However, if you are in a position where you can help and feel compelled to do so, you can go to: http://fallenheroesfund.ufc.com/
My column about the event is now available by clicking here. All the fighters on the card felt honored being able to compete in front of the troops. As a writer, I felt honored just being there to cover it. The greatest freedom I enjoy in life is the ability to write and say whatever I think regardless of whether people agree. It’s a freedom that has been afforded to me by the many sacrifices made by the United States Armed Forces.
In closing, I’d like to thank the UFC, Spike TV, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and Brandon Wolff, Tim Credeur, Steve Bruno, and Luigi Fioravanti for all their help in making the article possible. I urge you all to check out the article by clicking here.