During the month of November and throughout the year, the Cleveland Browns host and recognize servicemen and servicewomen from each military branch. Through in-stadium recognition, exclusive invites and tributes to local heroes, the Browns support active duty and veteran military members.
This week, there was an opportunity to offer a private tour of the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea to veterans through the City of Berea Veterans Outreach Office. The organization quotes that just over 15 % of the city's population consist of military veterans.
They work to support those dealing with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse, homelessness, disabilities and more.
They have found that veterans have a strong need for community and other support when they return from deployments and reintegrate into civilian life, but may not always ask for it.
For the second year in a row, the Browns have opened the doors of the training facility to invite veterans in for a tour to see the inner workings and behind-the-scenes operations of the team.
This year a group of 10 joined us representing veterans who are associated with the City of Berea Veterans Outreach office and the Generations Senior Living Home.
Two notably served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars while others sacrificially served the country representing the Army, Navy and Air Force. Three in particular wanted to share of their experience while in the service.
James Smith served in the Army during the Vietnam War in the late-1960s. Stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey, he worked diligently on the base once he returned back from the war. Once he got out of the Army, Jim returned back to his childhood hometown, Cleveland, where he married his wife, started a family and cheered for the Browns for years. He was ecstatic about the opportunity to see where his favorite team practices and trains.
Growing up in East Cleveland, James Ditata enlisted in the Army at the legal age of 18. Serving in the Korean War in the mid-1950s, this young man saw a lot during his time. Jim was stationed in London, England and had the opportunity to tour around a bit, being impressed with the architecture of iconic landmarks like the Tower of London! After the war, he returned stateside, met his wife and settled in Austintown, Ohio raising two children and leading an enjoyable life as a long-time Browns fan.
Bill Krukmeyer served in the Navy in the mid-1940s. Bill was stationed in Port Hueneme in California before being moved out to Guam. Bill's job was to load and unload boats. After his service he attended John Carroll University before making Bay Village his home. He found peace in helping his widowed mother raise his two brothers. A number of years later he got a job at Republic Steel. He worked there for 39 years, while raising a family of four right in the heart of Cleveland. Bill, being a huge Browns fan himself, remembers the infamous 1946 season under Head Coach Paul Brown, leading the team to victory. He said "The Cleveland Browns won everything, they were unstoppable!"
Other guests included Craig Mills and Don Zahnke, Navy veterans, the former fought in the Gulf War over the course of his career, the Coordinator for the City of Berea Veterans: Chaplain Willie an Vietnam Veteran who served as an Army veteran and land clearer in the jungles, and finally Linda Kramer is another Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force and now lives and works stateside as a journalist.
The group ventured through the front office seeing where press conferences are held in-house, the indoor Casey Coleman field house, the radio booth where Cleveland Browns Daily is broadcasted live and much more!
The veterans mentioned they had never seen anything like it and were grateful for the time and experience to learn about their hometown team, the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns and the NFL have a long-standing commitment to honoring the military and will continue to do so in season as well as during offseason.
Read more about how the Browns worked directly with the USO of Northern Ohio, a First and Ten community partner of the team to continue our support of the military this month at the Salute to Service Game: https://www.clevelandbrowns.com/news/browns-to-honor-servicemen-and-servicewomen-during-salute-to-service-game-vs-fal