After 12 seasons in the NFL as a defensive end, Jared Allen took part in a United Service Organizations tour to Iraq in 2009 and discovered a new passion: helping veterans. He returned home and founded Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors (JAH4WW), a nonprofit organization that raises money to build and remodel homes for veterans who sustained life-altering injuries while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Each house is made injury-specific and tailored to the needs of individual veterans, to ensure that their homes are as accessible and comfortable to live in as possible. To date, JAH4WW has completed 22 houses since 2009, with more being planned.
American Essence spoke with Allen about his work with veterans, as well as his other interests outside football.
American Essence: Why are you especially passionate about helping veterans?
Jared Allen: My grandfather was one of my heroes. He was a 23-year Marine Corps vet. I have many family members that are vets and was always taught that the men and women who serve this country are the reasons we get to chase our dreams.
AE: What was the most memorable moment from your USO trip to military bases in the Middle East?
Mr. Allen: Hanging with SEAL Team 5.
AE: What is unique about the homes that Homes for Wounded Warriors builds?
Mr. Allen: We build our houses for the specific needs of the recipient, and they own the home mortgage-free when we give them the keys.
AE: Could you please tell us about some of the veterans you’ve met through the project? What were the most touching stories you have heard about their dedication to this country?
Mr. Allen: All our recipients were injured in heroic acts for our country. I’m extremely humbled every time I read their stories and get to know them personally. The most touching story about all of them is that they all believe someone deserves it more than themselves.
AE: What would you like the younger generations to understand about veterans?
Mr. Allen: That we are 100 percent a volunteer military and that these men and women are always on the road away from family and friends fighting for the U.S. That men and women lay it down for people they don’t even know so we can enjoy all the little things in life. So, everyone who enjoys that should support those vets.
AE: As an entrepreneur with several businesses in different industries, what would you say is the key to success when starting new ventures?
Mr. Allen: Passion for whatever you are doing.
AE: What have you been passionate about recently? Any new projects to share with us?
Mr. Allen: I’m trying to make the Olympics in curling.
From July Issue, Volume 3