ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – For wounded warriors, Captain Ed Gunderson and Sfc. Omar Marqueses, football and tailgating is a welcome distraction to the seriousness of military life.
Gunderson, a 13 year Army veteran, was injured on a tour of duty in Afghanistan last year.
“A bomb came up and flipped my vehicle, made my spine compress,” Gunderson said.
He and Marqueses were invited to the Cowboys game as part of Operation Warrior Wishes, which hopes to empower and inspire wounded warriors with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
“It gets your mind out of the gutter when you’re faced with PTSD, depression, anxiety; things of that nature. It really brings joy to your heart,” Marqueses said.
They are among some 200 soldiers nominated in the past year by their colleagues to receive this gift.
“It just makes me feel good,” Marqueses said. “It’s so awesome to be appreciated, especially in the great state of Texas, you feel the love here.”
Their arrival coincided with Military Appreciation Day at AT&T Stadium. During halftime, the Dallas Cowboys honored service members who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Patriotism was evident at the stadium with some fans even offering Marqueses and Gunderson their seats.
Seeing the house that Jerry Jones built was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Marqueses could only describe the stadium as “impressive, magnificent and oh my God!”
While they say they appreciate the love and support, they say they were simply doing their jobs.
“I will protect this flag with my life, which is what I signed up to do and I almost gave it,” Gunderson said. “For all those guys who did give the ultimate sacrifice, it’s because- to make sure that everyone can sleep at night here.”
Operation Warrior Wishes was started by Craig Steichen and his son Matt Steichen, who wanted the chance to give wounded combat veterans a chance to all 32 NFL stadiums to empower and inspire them.
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