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The Strong Athletic Veteran shirt and the People who Wear it

The Strong Athletic Veteran shirt and the People who Wear it

Posted by Interview by Felice Trirogoff featuring Lisa Benson and Joel Herrera, Jr. on Nov 11th 2020

Every November 11 we celebrate Veterans Day, a moment to recognize and appreciate the individuals who serve in all parts of the military. Our friend and veteran, Lisa Benson (aka DeBella DeBall of the Texas Rollergirls) shared her thoughts about the day and the origins of our t-shirt, Strong Athletic Veteran.

Lisa Benson

Can you tell the Strong Athletic community a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Lisa Benson, a digital marketer by day and crafter by night.

Coyote Denver Roller Derby, Debella Deball Texas Rollergirls, Blaque Jac Atlanta Roller Derby in Strong Athletic (photo supplied by interviewee)

In what branch of the military did you serve? 

I was in the US Army and Army Reserve’s from 2000-2009. I deployed to Iraq with 369 Transportation Company, “Strapped Tight, Fit to Fight” as convoy security. I left the Army as a Staff Sergeant Promotable.

What does Veterans Day mean to you and what would you like the SA community to know about it? 

To keep it short and sweet: freedom, sacrifice, and honor. I am honored to have served with those that make heroic sacrifices. As a nation, we have a lot of work to do to right our wrongs, but we also need to bring back equality, equity, and tranquility. On this Veterans Day, we need to celebrate veterans of all backgrounds.

Lisa Benson with Sgt Labuda, Sgt Kulesz and Pfc Almenez, - we all hailed from NY and someone decided to take a picture of us by the flag. (photo supplied by Lisa Benson)

You were heavily involved with Battle Buddies and originally asked SA to create the Strong Athletic Veteran shirt - can you tell us a little more about that request?

As with many veterans, I have post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) which for me, are episodes of anger and the struggle of day-to-day life is a real thing. Derby helped me to manage it and I am fortunate to friends that understand my struggles and are supportive. Within the derby community, we founded the Battle Buddies, a group comprised of skaters who are also veterans. We created a common platform for those of us with similar experiences to connect with one another. We found from experience that many veterans struggle when they don’t have that type of support, and in the worst and most tragic cases some die by suicide. When I approached Strong Athletic, I wanted a shirt that reflected our collective strength while supporting others that need us. Mission 22 was the organization that spoke loudest to me. They are raising awareness and offering treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, substance abuse and all of the other issues veterans are facing today.

Lisa Benson with her husband Rick Benson the day he was promoted to Major. Also, featured Richard Benson. (photo supplied by Lisa Benson)

Are there any veteran-related information you’d like to share with our community? 

This Veteran’s Day the National Native American Memorial opens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. If you are local and able, please check it out. And please continue to recognize, support, donate, and educate yourself about the contributions of Native American veterans.

How is retirement from roller derby going and is there anything else coming up on the horizon? 

Retirement was a scary decision, but one of the best in my life. I have been able to spend time with my husband and our new dog. I have skated a half marathon and I started a new career in Digital Marketing. My new career led to the launch of my own marketing firm aptly named: DeBella DeBall Designs. Weeknights, I can be found creating websites and/or designing crafts for the work I do with my friend QBall.

DeBella (featured in the center) with Texas Travel Team the Texecutioners in 2014. Photo taken by Roy Moore. Head Shot of DeBella DeBall, aka Lisa Benson, photo by Michele Hale

                                                                       

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The military taught me a lot about myself. I realized I had the fortitude to accomplish anything I apply myself to. Challenges, whether they be internal or external, are what you make of them. How you approach them and work to overcome them define your character. My service taught me that understanding failures ultimately creates successes.


Joel Herrera, Jr.

Joel Herra, Jr and Mollie Herra

Can you tell the Strong Athletic community a little bit about yourself?

My name is Joel Herrera Jr., or G.I. Joel for the roller derby community. I was in the Marine Corps from 2004 to 2016 with 4 separate deployments, 1 CONUS and 3 OCONUS. I ended my career as a Staff Sergeant (E-6) and was a Black Belt Instructor in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. I am now out of the service and am married to my amazing wife Mollie and our son, Zane.

Joel Herra, Jr. on duty in Africa (photo supplied by J. Herra)

What does Veterans Day mean to you and what would you like the SA community to know about it?

Veterans Day, for me, means honoring all who served. Those that sacrificed a piece of themselves to serve and protect. Did you know that in 1973 the draft ended and since then all of our service members have been, and still are, volunteers?

What's it like being a dad to Zane and a husband to Mollie? 

As long as I could remember I’ve wanted to be a dad. I was 33 when he was born and finally being able to be called a dad was one of my best accomplishments of my lifetime. Having Mollie alongside me during this has also been one of my best accomplishments. Having your best friend, from high school days, become your partner after 15 years is a story I’ll never get tired of telling.

Mollie, Zane and Joel Herra

Are there any veteran-related information you’d like to share with our community?

Veterans have their own struggles, from their time in service. No issue is the same and experiences affect us differently, being there is step one in supporting us. You don’t have to do anything right away, and you don’t have to try and “fix it” just be there and show us you have our six. Sometimes that goes a long way.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I appreciate Strong Athletic for allowing me the honor to be featured. It may not seem like much, but for me it’s huge. 

Team Mexico and Joel Herra's Team Mexico head shot (photo supplied by J. Herra)

From Strong Athletic

Strong Athletic initially collaborated with Roller Derby Battle Buddies in 2017 when the group asked Strong Athletic to partner with their organization to create a design for military veterans that would benefit Mission 22. It was established that 22% of all profits would be donated to Mission 22. The first batch of shirts were released in 2018 and were on a navy blue shirt with silver ink.  The second batch was released in 2020 and was in military green with black ink. If you missed out on your chance to order a shirt when they first came out, you can grab one now, by clicking here