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Army veteran proud of Seahawks role on, off field

Seattle Seahawks guard Jared Smith signs autographs for soldiers from 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, after a ceremony transitioning the Seattle Seahawks 12th Man flag from the "Raider" Brigade to the 446th Airlift Wing.

You likely wouldn’t notice Armando Mejia walks with a limp, and that’s the way he’d prefer it.

The IED explosion that ripped apart the Humvee he was riding in Iraq in 2004 is an inescapable part of this Army veteran’s history, requiring 20 surgeries and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

But it’s the present and future Mejia is concentrating on.

“I feel blessed to be here,” said Mejia, 35, “doing something I really enjoy.”

On Saturday, in the minutes before the Seahawks’ playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, Mejia will be at his usual post, in suit and tie, accompanying and cuing a military team of about 50 members that will unroll and wave the 90-foot American flag for the “Star Spangled Banner.”

That’s just one of his duties. Mejia may have one of the longer titles in sports: “fan development international outreach manager” for both the Seahawks and Sounders FC. (The soccer team is partly owned by Seahawks owner Paul Allen.)

Mike Flood, Seahawks’ community-relations vice president, said Mejia is the team’s liaison to military and the Latino communities.

The job includes working on re-enlistment events before each Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field, at which members of the military can re-enlist.

Mejia, a Los Angeles-area native who lives in Auburn, also helps with Seahawks visits to military bases, such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was assigned for most of his 12 years in the Army.

Some say the outreach to military bases is one reason the team has fans across the country, as service members, once discharged, take their Seahawks’ loyalty back home.

“He also helps connect us with a ton of groups statewide,” Flood said, “including Hispanic chambers of commerce and Latino leaders from all different parts of the state.”

Mejia’s military honors include a Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge.

After a medical retirement from the Army in 2008, he attended Pierce College and became active with civic organizations including Boys & Girls Clubs, Special Olympics and the Wounded Warrior Project.

“Helping others has been a healing process for me,” said Mejia, father of three.

He was named one of Pierce College’s distinguished alumni in 2009, and went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work at the University of Washington Tacoma.

“He’s a very warm guy who is also a great leader,” said Flood, who said when the two met, Mejia was helping youngsters in the community get tickets to see Sounders games.

Mejia is not making any predictions about the Seahawks’ playoff chances or what his own responsibilities will be in the coming weeks.

“Whatever they need,” he said, “I’ll be ready.”

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