Veteran’s Day is a day that our country honors the men and women who have served in our nation’s military. There are many ways that we can honor these men and women for their service. How can we show our support beyond a simple, “thank you for your service?” Shootout for Soldiers’ Wallball for Warfighters November campaign seeks to do just that. The month-long initiative calls on the lacrosse community to honor our nation’s veterans by hitting the wall.
I spoke with Erik Mineo and Alexis Brandolini from Shootout for Soldiers to learn more about the organization and its Wallball for Warfighters campaign. Shootout for Soldiers seeks to use lacrosse as a platform to support American veterans and foster community engagement.
Erik, a West Point Academy graduate (2005) and Army veteran, is the Executive Director. Alexis, a civilian, is the Director of Strategy for Shootout for Soldiers. Erik spoke of the significance and impact the Wallball for Warfighters campaign can have on Veterans.
“Being able to participate as a civilian, to pick up your stick and play your sport, master your craft and hone your craft. That’s a metric to show support for the veterans, you’re demonstrating. You’re showing that support, you’re putting effort forward. It’s a step beyond thanking you for your service. Then, they register and they’re proud to wear the shirt because the shirt that we put together represents our communities.”
– Erik Mineo
Wallball for Warfighters
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Shootout for Soldiers. Currently, the Shootout for Soldiers model runs as a 24-hour tournament. The day begins with an opening one-hour ceremony to honor the veterans in the surrounding communities proceeded by 24 lacrosse games over the span of 24 hours that are open for all.
Shootout for Soldiers held seven events in 2022. Erik spoke how Wallball For Warfighters offered a more inclusive event than what its traditional tournaments could provide.
“We’ve realized it can be a barrier to entry to participate, because we only have one location for 24 hours, and then we’re gone. Our goal was to create an opportunity for all lacrosse players to participate in an official Shootout for Soldiers event.
We wanted it to be an inclusive event that brings the military and the civilian communities closer together through the sport that we love. And wallball is one of the most fundamental skills that anyone at any age can participate in.
We were thinking that this could spread from coast to coast, but soon we also realized its global reach. We’ll have Johnny Surdick, from the Chaos, stationed in South Korea participating. One of our national-level volunteers, Hugh Nunn, is in Lebanon right now.
We realized November is really one of the most dead months in lacrosse, and it just so happens to be Veterans Day on the 11th. We see this as a great opportunity for Wallball For Warfighters, as a global event that anyone anywhere – indoor, outdoor, young, old, skilled, unskilled – can all be a part of, together.“
– Erik Mineo
Wallball for Warfighters Logo
Participants in Wallball for Warfighters are encouraged to share video of them playing wallball and tag the Shootout for Soldiers social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram). They are then given the opportunity to register for the event and sign-up to receive a limited-edition shirt displaying the Wallball for Warfighters logo.
Alexis spoke how the logo represented the inclusivity of lacrosse, Shootout for Soldiers, and the Wallball for Warfighters campaign.
“We have a saluting soldier that’s been on a lot of our other branding. We’ve even seen people have it tattooed on them, it’s pretty badass. We took a different take on it this time. In addition, we have all of the different lacrosse players represented, from goalies to female players to long sticks, to attackers. And then we have the soldiers and all their various forms as well. We wanted to really bring a unifying logo and make people wear this proudly and that we’re all standing here together in this effort.“
– Alexis Brandolini
Shootout for Soldiers has also worked with Pearl Lacrosse and the Premier Lacrosse League to help transform this event. They are working with Pearl to help launch their new Optic Yellow Lacrosse Ball. The first 500 participants in Wallball for Warfighters will receive a Pearl Optic Yellow Lacrosse Ball, shirt, and dog tag.
The PLL and PLL Assists are also working to cross-promote Wallball for Warfighters. The players will be tagging the Shootout for Soldiers social media accounts throughout the month. PLL Assists are providing registrations to ten players each from ten PLL Assists sponsored-organizations. I spoke with PLL Assists Director Eric Mathieu about the partnership with Shootout for Soldiers.
“Shootout for Soldiers is one of PLL Assists longest tenured partners and as always, we’re proud and honored to work with them. What’s particularly great about their Wallball for Warfighters campaign is that the entire lacrosse community can get involved in a fun and engaging way. What better way to support veterans than to get some reps in during the off-season? We love this initiative and we’re thrilled to have some of our players, coaches and staff involved!”
– Eric Mathieu
More Than a Date on the Calendar
Whether it’s a Shootout for Soldiers 24 hour tournaments or the Wallball for Warfighters initiative, these events not only allow us to honor our veterans, but also provide an opportunity for community and healing. Erik and Alexis both shared the significance and impact these events can have on veterans.
“We want to honor and respect the sanctity of the medicine game. We know that playing this game is going to heal us, it’s going to heal the veterans, it’s going to heal the trauma sustained in war.
We have a team, a jersey, and a place for everyone who has served to come to play with all barriers removed. To come, smile, sweat, and share and camaraderie, again, right off the battlefield, on yet another athletic field, when you thought you’d never be on another field again.
I’ve had more than one veteran approach me and say, ‘I’m here alive today because this date was on the calendar.’ You don’t want to process that, you’re like, ‘Hey, awesome, I’m glad you like, you know, took off work.’ And they’re like, ‘Nah, man, like, they put the hand on the shoulder and veteran like, you understand? We’ve all been there, you know, it’s like, Nah, man, I’m here because of this.“
– Erik Mineo
“You realize that this wall ball event is another date. You can be at home, you don’t have to go anywhere. If there’s a guy out there, who has had his stick, collecting dust in the basement and has not wanted to come to a Shootout event – they can still participate in this because all of a sudden, they’ve remembered what it feels like to pick up his stick and play.
For veterans, Veterans Day can have a lot of triggering stuff around the date. So here’s the reason to get moving. Here’s a reason to get active. Here’s a reason to see your post or your fellow lacrosse player, community, or military community posting some other things that pay tribute in a different way.”
– Alexis Brandolini
Erik grew up on Long Island and graduated from St. Anthony’s High School. He was attending the United States Military Academy West Point when 9/11 happened, so Erik’s time became extremely purposeful in preparation for his graduation. Even after suffering two major knee injuries as a FOGO at West Point, Erik was commissioned into the United State Army with the 82nd Airborne when he graduated in 2005. He had four intense deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq with the 82nd Airborne and the 75th Ranger Regiment, as well as being a Commander in the Asymmetric Warfare Group. In addition to being the Executive Director for Shootout for Soldiers, he is also the co-founder of Alpha Echo Project. Erik currently lives on Long Island.
Alexis grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and believes that supporting our country’s veterans and active duty is something we can all be proud to take part in. In fact, she believes it is the most rewarding thing to be a part of as a civilian, and she sees her work as an example to other civilians that we should all do these things together. Alexis played lacrosse at the University of Richmond where she was a two-year captain and played with her two sisters. In addition to being the Director of Strategy for Shootout for Soldiers, she is the co-founder of Alpha Echo Project. Alexis currently lives in Baltimore where she is embracing the incredible growth of the game through her daughter now playing, and who will together be doing Wallball For Warfighters.