NFL drafts volunteers to help during Pro Bowl week

In September 2007, Staff Sergeant Jamie Medinger was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) that left him with broken bones, a dislocated knee and a leg full of shrapnel.

“Since then, my job has been to get better,” said Medinger, who has been volunteering his time to help the NFL staff prepare for the Pro Bowl on Sunday at Aloha Stadium.

There are 26 “wounded warriors” like Medinger volunteering during Pro Bowl week, doing everything from answering phones to escorting players on military visits.

Staff Sergeant Anita Garrison has been helping the NFL events staff at the players’ hotel all week. She’s helped put together gift bags and welcome packets and even acted as security for the Make-a-Wish-Foundation at practice on Friday.

“it’s long hours, but we’re around football players, and not everybody gets to do that,” Garrison said.

Connie Papa, game operations manager for the NFL, has worked with military volunteers since 2001.

Not every volunteer is from the wounded warriors program. Three soldiers take vacation time this week just come work for Papa. Her first volunteer, Staff Sergeant Anthony Roy, had nothing but praise for “Ms. Papa” and her staff.

“He told me I was the worst drill sergeant he ever had,” Papa said, laughing. “But he comes back every year.”

In 2006, Papa presented Roy with a signed Pro Bowl football before he was deployed to Iraq for 14 months. He arrived home last May and is back working for Papa again this year.

“Another thing I do like about this experience is the appreciation the players show for the military,” Roy said.

Indeed, approximately 40 NFL all stars, including Kurt Warner, Adrian Peterson and Albert Haynesworth, have participated in outreach events from all branches of the military during Pro Bowl week.

And what happens next year, when the Pro Bowl moves to South Florida the week before the Super Bowl?

“I would like to take this hotel, staff and volunteers and move them to Miami,” Papa said.

She might see at least one familiar face.

“If I’m stationed in Florida, I’ll work for them again,” Garrison said.

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