BOULDER - The University of Colorado Ralphie Handlers wore combat boots in honor of our veterans during Saturday's football game against Washington as part of the national Boot Campaign program.
The Boot Campaign, according to its site, is a grassroots program that encourages Americans to "get their boots on" to show appreciation for troops, bring awareness to veteran issues and raise funds of various military organizations. The Boot Campaign uses proceeds from boot sales, donations and corporate sponsorships to provide funding for programs that help assist wounded military members and their families with unique issues like job placement, mortgage free homes and post-traumatic stress disorder counseling.
The boots have added meaning for one Ralphie Handler in particular, veteran Josh Alderfer. Alderfer joined the Marine Corp in 2003 and spent four of his five and a half years with the Marines overseas, working as a Marine security guard at American Embassies and as a weapons instructor.
|Photo Courtesy: Tony Harman
Alderfer is a psychology major set to graduate in December. Though he shares a love of college football, his story is unique from most college students. When Alderfer got out of the Marines, he and his wife spent a year in her home country of Norway. He was working on an associate degree from an online school as the couple's lease was coming to an end. They decided to finish their degrees in the United States, and began searching for a place to attend. In the process, they discovered CU. The school offered their desired majors and in-state tuitions for veterans, and they were all but sold.
"Once we saw pictures of the campus, we booked our flight back to the states literally the same day," Alderfer said. "We moved here without either of us ever having been here before and before we applied to the university. It was a pretty big leap of faith, but we figured we would go for it."
The couple came to CU in fall 2010. Alderfer, a former football player, didn't hesitate to buy season tickets.
"There was no way we were going to come to a school like the University of Colorado and not get that student section experience," Alderfer said. "Being that I wanted to actually see the game, we would get there early enough to get down close to the 50-yard-line and in time to see Ralphie run."
When Alderfer saw Ralphie for the first time and heard that the Handlers were CU students, a light bulb went off in his head. He went to talk to some of the Handlers about the program, and knew it was a right fit.
Alderfer heard about the Boot Campaign through other veteran organizations and thought it'd be the perfect thing for him and his fellow Handlers to support.
"I wasn't sure how the team would react when I proposed the idea but they all enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to give back to the veteran community and to use their position to make a positive impact in the community," Alderfer said.
According to bootcampaign.com, nearly 50,000 U.S. troops have been injured since 2001, with over 16,000 of those injuries being catastrophic. Alderfer said he knows firsthand the many costs of war.
"When I say the cost of war, I'm talking about the friends, and families, the children of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice," Alderfer said. "I'm talking about the men and women who come home and the war rages on inside of them, or the wounded warrior who faces the challenges of life with missing limbs or other battle wounds. These are the costs of war that too often go unnoticed to so many. It's one of the main reasons why I believe the Boot Campaign is such a great organization. The healing for these men and women and their families starts in the community."
Alderfer said wearing the boots helps show service members they are thankful, and hopes the boots the Handlers wore at the game will promote a better understanding of war within the student population.