Earlier this week, Oakland Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski visited the San Francisco Veteran's Administration Medical Center to honor servicemen and women who have served the United States. Gradkowski was there to brighten the moods of the veterans and to thank them for their outstanding service.
With the vets sitting throughout the room in the Community Living Center, Gradkowski, the fourth year pro out of Toledo, told stories about overcoming adversity playing football and listened to veterans' stories about their experiences in the military. He then answered questions about what is said in the huddle, his experiences playing with various professionals in the NFL, and any other questions thrown his way.
The visit from the Raiders brought back memories for Vietnam veteran, Mike Wong, who has followed the Raiders closely for many years, particularly "when Jim Plunkett was QB and [the Raiders were] unstoppable." To Mike, having an NFL player come visit, especially from the team he has followed for so long, was a great experience.
Following the question and answer session, Gradkowski personally met, signed autographs, and posed for pictures with every veteran in attendance. The veterans were able to share their stories and receive memorabilia from their home team.
Marcia Lizza, Chief of Recreation Therapy at the Community Living Center of the VA Center, was able to see the effect the Raiders quarterback was having on her residents. "You can see how they are responding and not wanting to stop asking the questions. I don't think they want it to be over. It gives them a pleasure right now and something wonderful to think about in the days ahead too," Lizza said. "The event had a little extra meaning because "the timing for this was perfect. It couldn't be better [with it being] close to Veteran's Day and a way of recognizing them. Bruce did beautifully. They appreciate it."
According to Mr. Wong, the VA Center does not have visitors like Gradkowski very often. The only visitor he could recall involved a referee many years ago. Because of the rarity of these events, the veterans remember and appreciate the visits much more. Gradkowski recognized the importance, "They're the true heroes and they've been through worse than we could ever imagine," Gradkowski said. I mean what's an hour to come help these people and just kind of learn about them as they learn about me? They're the true heroes in this and they've been through a lot for our country and it's awesome to give back."
Gradkowski hopes he was able to uplift the veterans' spirits, whether for a day, a week, or months to come. "That's all you can hope for," said Gradkowski. "It was a good day."
During a week in which the country honors and recognizes the veterans of the United States military, Raiders QB Gradkowski brought his optimistic attitude and spirit to the residents of the VA Center of San Francisco, brightening their moods and leaving them with a lasting memory.