It was a great day at Fenway South at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers at the Red Sox spring training season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, but not because of the nail biting 7-6 Red Sox victory in the bottom of the 9th inning. The day was special because it was a celebration of the Red Sox Foundation partnership with Home Base Florida that honored our Veteran participants and their families for their service.
The Red Sox Foundation donated more than 130 tickets for Home Base Florida Veteran and Family participants who were given the once in a lifetime opportunity to walk onto the field to be acknowledged for their selfless sacrifice. The special event kicked off with a Home Base Florida pre-game ceremony that introduced fans in the packed stadium to its mission and recognized those who served such as retired U.S. Army Veteran Matt Loebs and his family. Loebs, who also happens to be a successful baseball coach, threw out a perfect, jaw dropping ceremonial first pitch during the pre-game ceremony and his children were given the honor of kicking things off with the official “play ball” announcement.
Immediately following the pre-game ceremony, Loebs joined Home Base Florida senior leadership for a special donor reception where he shared with the group of more than 75 supporters his experience in the military, his challenges transitioning to civilian life and how Home Base Florida helped him get his life back.
Loebs, who was born and raised in Naples, served more than 17 years in the Army as an explosive specialist and combat engineer, struggled with long term health challenges from chemical weapons exposure and mental health challenges as he transitioned to civilian life.
“Many things from my days in combat in Iraq haunt me. Every day was ‘a blast’ there where I had to clean up body parts,” said Loebs. “That taught me to detach emotionally because the mission had to continue.”
While a useful tactic on the battlefield, that didn’t serve him at home. A professional high-achiever, Loebs shared that he struggled silently in his personal life with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and survivor’s guilt. These challenges led to the end of his marriage and that finally made him reach out to Home Base Florida for help.
Loebs enrolled in the two-week Intensive Clinical Program at Home Base’s National Center of Excellence in Charleston, Mass., where he was relieved to know he wasn’t alone, and that other Veterans were going through similar challenges. He began to understand his triggers and learned how to cope with them in a healthy way.
The changes in him led him and his ex-wife to remarry in 2021.
“PTSD never goes away,” said Loebs. “Home Base taught me how to live a fulfilled life with my trauma and gave me the skills to restore the most important part of my life – my family.”