For the Chiefs November 11, 2018, game against the Arizona Cardinals, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and the Chiefs selected Patrick Benson, U.S. Army veteran and co-founder/director of War Horses for Veterans, as the Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion. Prior to kickoff, Benson received on-field recognition and conducted the ceremonial first pass to Danan Hughes before touring the Chiefs broadcast booth and enjoying the game.
"I'm excited about this opportunity," said Benson, who served in the Army Infantry from 1998 to 2004. "I'm honored to represent our veteran community—those serving and those we have lost."
Following the completion of his service, Benson found himself wrestling with emotions he didn't know how to handle as he transitioned back to civilian life. And he noticed other veterans who were struggling, as well. In order to do something to help his fellow veterans, he founded the War Horses for Veterans organization to give service members the chance to bond with fellow veterans as well as horses—proven therapy animals—and make positive, trusting connections.
"Patrick Benson is making such a positive difference in the lives of true heroes," said Christina Lively, Blue KC's Department Vice President of Marketing and Communications. "His work to help veterans who have sacrificed so much for their country is something that should be recognized and applauded. We're proud to honor Patrick as a Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion."
Through War Horses for Veterans, combat vets are given the chance to spend three days in a peaceful, rural environment where they work with horses and network with program mentors and other veterans. According to Benson, working with a large animal helps reduce the anxiety of participants and allows them to shed the "shell" they carry into the experience.
"It's hard to find the words for it," Benson said. "We're taught that you can't ask for help; it's a sign of weakness. And that's just crazy. You need help."
The results produced by War Horses for Veterans have been nothing short of life-changing, as veterans find a safe environment in which they can begin to heal. And with just three days to each encounter, veterans are invited to come back as many times as they like, provided they bring another veteran with them to benefit from the program.
"Patrick Benson took a chance and put everything he had into creating War Horse For Veterans," said John Parker, USN Retired, who now serves as the organization's director of development. "He had an idea, using horses to bring combat veterans together so they can all help each other. He spends every waking second looking for ways to help those who have put their lives on the line for our freedom, and he is committed to ending the 22 veteran suicides a day. Patrick is a hero to me as well as the hundreds of veterans and their families."
To nominate a local hero like Patrick Benson to be recognized as a Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion, visit chiefs.com/bluekc.