Sticks for Soldiers was originally started in Connecticut, but has raised over $35,000 for select wounded veterans in the two years of the Florida affiliate’s existence. Since the inception of Sticks for Soldiers in 2006, the nonprofit organization has raised over $1 million for wounded vets as a whole.

Sometimes lacrosse is about more than scooping up a ball with a stick and putting it into a goal. Sometimes it’s for a good cause.

That’s the case for the 3rd Annual Sticks for Soldiers Florida Charity Lacrosse Tournament, which returns March 20-21 and will be hosted by Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. The two-day event, which raises funds for a select wounded veteran each year, will have teams participating from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Riverview High School, St. Edwards High School from Vero Beach and Melbourne Central Catholic High School. This year’s event will also include two girls’ teams in the lineup, one from Cardinal Mooney and the other from Riverview.

The tournament has raised over $35,000 for local wounded veterans during its two years in Florida.

This year’s honoree and beneficiary of the tournament will be U.S. Army veteran Staff Sergeant Justin Lansford, who served from 2009 to 2013 as a rifleman assigned to the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. His service included deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“It was just so obvious that he was a great candidate. He’s a great guy. He’s going to nursing school, he was an EMT, and he’s had to overcome a lot. The things that he endured in the war and what he has to live with, it’s amazing. He’s a pretty impressive guy,” said Kyle Donovan, a coach from Cardinal Mooney Lacrosse and the event organizer for Sticks for Soldiers Florida.

On April 23, 2013, Lansford was severely injured when a roadside bomb struck the truck that he was in.

The truck flipped over and Lansford was crushed underneath.

He was trapped under the burning truck for over 30 minutes before they were able to lift the truck and have him medivacked.

He suffered massive injuries: the loss of his right leg above the knee, crush injuries to his right leg, a ruptured spleen, damage to his liver and pancreas, two collapsed lungs, a broken back and burns to his right arm. Then, while recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he suffered several severe infections. It took four months of impatient care before he fought off the infections and could be released to outpatient treatment. He would go on to continue physical therapy for nearly two years.

These days Lansford, alongside his wife, Carol, holds a leadership role in Valor Service Dogs, which helps pair wounded vets and first responders with mobility assistance and PTSD service dogs. When he’s not doing that, you can find him at University of South Florida where he is studying nursing.

“This tournament really helps people. It can be a life changing event. There’s no limits on what they can use this money for, they could use it put an addition on their house or to buy something they need to make their lives easier. And it’s 100% volunteer based, there’s no overhead, so the money goes to the them and I think that’s awesome,” said Donovan

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