By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
L.J. Collier, the Seattle Seahawks’ first round draft pick last month, will be chasing quarterbacks this fall. But on a Friday afternoon in June, the former Texas Christian University defensive lineman was cleaning windows and glass cases at the Nisei Veteran’s Committee (NVC) Memorial Hall in the International District (ID).
Collier and the Seahawks were participating in the NFL’s “Huddle for 100,” a call to action requesting teams, as well as their fans, to participate in community service projects in honor of the 100th year of the league. The project asks for a donation of 100 minutes of time to a worthy cause. The teams and their fans are asked to log their hours in support of their team. The NFL team that tracks the most hours will be awarded $100,000 for a community project.
In addition to their work at NVC Hall, the Seahawks participated in projects at Plymouth Housing, Seattle Public Schools, and the YWCA Seattle on June 14. The Seahawks had a total of 200 staff members, partners, legends, and players giving 200 minutes of their time totaling 40,000 volunteer minutes. Approximately 70 people from The Mission Continues and the Seahawks were at the NVC helping.
“It’s just cool to be here and learn about the history,” Collier said, as he looked at the glass cases honoring those Japanese American veterans that fought for the country. “There are a lot of decorated individuals here.” Collier pointed out one of the exhibits which honored a veteran that received six Purple Hearts. He didn’t seem to mind his job of cleaning the glass cases and windows of the hall.
“It isn’t a hard job,” said the 6-foot-2, 272-pound rookie. “These people spend their time volunteering here, it’s the least we could do for them and show them how much they are appreciated.”
Collier, along with fellow 2019 draft pick Travis Homer from the University of Miami and undrafted college free agent Brian Mone from the University of Michigan, took a tour of the museum and were in awe of the stories of the veterans that fought in many of the nation’s conflicts around the world.
In addition to the present-day Seahawks, team legends Sam Adkins, Jacob Green, and John Friesz also lent a hand to the cause. Green, the Hawks defensive end from 1980-1991, cut down shrubbery outside the hall. The former quarterback, Adkins, who was the last player to wear the number 12 before it was retired in honor of the Seahawks’ fans, took control of a wheelbarrow as he assisted with yard work.
“Essentially, they are cleaning the hall, the grounds, the bushes,” said NVC Commander Walter Tanimoto. “The things that our membership would do on an annual or biannual basis, the Seahawks are doing today.”
Of special note, the Seahawks helped donate additional money for restringing their flag pole including a halyard (rope to pull up a flag). Also, the Seahawks donated money for the purchase of a display case.
“The Nisei Veterans were very fortunate to be selected by The Mission Continues and the Seattle Seahawks for the Huddle for 100 Program,” said Tanimoto.
“In 2017, the Seahawks saluted our Nisei Veterans at a football game. The Mission Continues reached out to us about the possibility of the service project.”
The NVC cleanup project was done in conjunction with The Mission Continues. The national, non-partisan nonprofit “empowers veterans to continue their service, and empowers communities with veteran talent, skills, and preparedness to generate visible impact.”
Linh Thai, an Army Veteran, is the City Impact Manager for the local chapter. A former staffer for congressman Adam Smith, Thai volunteered with The Mission Continues and after transitioning from that position, started working with the nonprofit. For the ID, it partners with InterIm CDA to address the needs of veterans in the area.
“The Mission Continues’ role in [Huddle for 100] was to help identify a community service organization that has a lasting and impactful contribution to veterans, but also to the community of Seattle. We have a good connection with Nisei veterans here and we recommended the Nisei Veterans Committee Hall to the Seattle Seahawks.” The nonprofit helped identify tasks and objectives for the Seahawks for the day of service.
“For me, it means that the organization (Seahawks) has shown genuine care and support for veterans.” In addition to the service, Thai hoped that all involved would learn a little more about the commitment, dedication, and sacrifice that the veterans gave to this country.
“We wanted to educate and inform them about the history of the Nisei veterans.”
“They’ve done so much for the country,” said Collier of the Nisei veterans. “I hope this shows how much people are thinking about them. I’ll enjoy today.”
For information about The Mission Continues, visit missioncontinues.org.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.