Editor’s note: 24 Seven Lax reached out to Navy vet, Cliff Gordon, for a lax junkie, and more importantly, a veteran’s perspective on the Shootout for Soldiers and what the event means to the military community.
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Exactly one week ago I had the privilege to participate in what is for me the most important lacrosse event of the year. I am speaking of the Shootout For Soldiers held once again on the beautiful campus of the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland.

If you are not familiar with Shootout For Soldiers, let’s get up to speed. SFS is a 24 hour continuous lacrosse game played to raise awareness and funds for our wounded military veterans. The event is the brain child of one Tyler Steinhardt, who founded the event 3 years ago. Tyler was a high school senior when he started organizing the first Shootout in 2012. I can’t say enough good things about this young man and it has been amazing to see both himself and his event grow over the past 3 years. The saying, “there is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer,” most definitely applies to Tyler and his crew of volunteers who put on this amazing event. I think I speak for all who have attended any of the Shootouts over the last 3 years in saying a big THANK YOU to all that make these amazing events possible.

I suppose I should introduce myself seeing that I have not yet done so. My name is Cliff Gordon and I am full-on lacrosse enthusiast, I guess you could say. I am a high school head coach as well as a summer club team head coach. I play year round as well (both field and box) and string at least a stick or two every week for friends, teammates, and players I coach. I am also a proud veteran. I served 10 years (2000-2010) in the US Navy where I spent my first 4 years on destroyers and my last 6 on the ground working in the Special Warfare/Special Operations communities. Tom and Woody have asked me to write this article since I am a vet and have played in SFS the past 3 years running, and who am I to turn down such an invitation from two of my favorite lacrosse personalities?!

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The mission statement for Shootout For Soldiers is; “To educate the community about the challenges facing our veterans, engaging them with local service members while rallying to support organizations that are helping our nations heroes.” I like this a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Sure, they have raised over $430,000 to date for organizations that directly support our wounded veterans, but Tyler and crew will be the first ones to tell you it’s not all about fundraising. SFS actually reaches out to the veteran community and listens. The last two years the events were kicked off by an all veterans game which is seriously the most important and fun game I play in every year. This year, SFS stepped things up again and held an adaptive game as well as a wheelchair lacrosse game inside of the field house at McDonogh.

I can’t stress enough how awesome this is from the veteran side of things. First and foremost, Shootout For Soldiers captures what is best while serving in the military and playing lacrosse. That is a thing called BROTHERHOOD (sisterhood for you lady laxers). All veterans share a connection regardless of rank, branch of service, or time served. It’s an unspoken bond that bridges generations of service members and connects us to our great military heritage. One my age (think master’s level on up) cannot help but see the parallels between lacrosse and military service. Even though lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the nation, it is still a smaller and therefore tighter community than any sport I have encountered. Case and point is Shootout For Soldiers. The support from prominent NCAA programs and the MLL is present throughout the event. During the veteran’s game this year we had none other than Dave Cottle coaching both teams! Let that sink in for a second… The Coach Cottle that I grew up watching coach the Greyhounds of Loyola, and more recently winning the MLL Championship with the Bayhawks last season is coaching us on the turf at McDonogh… Yep, its awesome. The veteran’s game is the best thing for a guy like me, a brotherhood inside of another brotherhood.

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The atmosphere at SFS is something else and always carries a positive vibe. It bridges the gap between the men’s and women’s games, young and old players, pros and novices, military and civilian in only the way lacrosse can. Taking care of our wounded veterans is something that simply deserves more attention. I’m not talking about just a bumper sticker and a Veteran’s Day post on social media type of support. Deeds not words as the old saying goes. Shootout For Soldiers is doing this the right way and I highly encourage anyone that has not been to one of their events to please do so as it is an amazing experience and everything that is good about our beloved game. One great game for one great cause. Long Live The Brotherhood…

Galleries from our time at Shootout for Soldiers are posted here. Follow 24 Seven Lax on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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