Every month, Upper Deck will spotlight one of our valued collectors to showcase their collection. The great thing about sports collectors is that they are all very different in what they collect, how they collect items and what they do once they have them. One common trait is the passion they share that is seldom found in any other group.
On Veteran’s Day, Upper Deck announced the “Million Pack March for the Troops” program to encourage collectors to donate sealed packs to troops serving overseas. Upper Deck started off the program by donating 100,000 packs last month. So, to help get a little more exposure for this program, this month we are spending some time with Josh Mattson from Killeen, Texas close to Ft. Hood. He served in the U.S. Army for 13 years and retired in December, 2007.
We all have that moment when we saw a player who just blew our mind and made us question if we actually really saw what they just did. For Josh Mattson, that player was Barry Sanders. The former Lion great would routinely make plays that would make a Lion fan out of almost anyone (except maybe the team he was playing against). It was Sanders who made Mattson a die-hard fan of the Detroit Lions. It was Sanders who made Mattson want to collect trading cards and he’s been enjoying the hobby ever since.
“My favorite pull from Upper Deck NFL products would have to be my Exquisite Barry Sanders autograph serial numbered 02/30,” shared Mattson. “My prized possessions include my Barry Sanders and Matthew Stafford autographs along with the complete 2008 NFL SP Authentic set, including short-printed rookies. My dream card would be a Barry Sanders one-of-one autograph card, but those are VERY hard to come by.”
About three years ago Mattson was deployed to serve in Iraq (November 2005-November 2006). We asked him what he could do during downtime and he shared, “It is kind of rough. Downtime is pretty rare as is, but when you get it, you try and watch movies, call home, spend time on the internet, just anything to try to take your mind off all the stress related to combat.”
“It’s difficult to watch games over there and keep up with your team,” said Mattson. “You are just so busy, the games come on at such odd times, and it just gets difficult to try to keep track of. I can remember staying up until about 3:00am on my second deployment to Iraq in order to watch Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seahawks.”
With so many different people from so many places serving in the military, there were bound to be some strong opinions on whose team was better. “When I was deployed, my roommate was a big Vikings fan so there was definitely some verbal sparring since the Lions and Vikings are in the same division,” said Mattson. “I cannot tell you the amount of time soldiers discussed football, sports and players over there. We would spend hours debating who was the better quarterback, running back, etc.”
Whether you agree or not with the United States’ conflicts abroad, there is no debating the courageous service the men and women of the U.S. Military provide. When you think about how stressful your job is, just think about how much more stressful it would be to serve in harms way thousands of miles away from your family and friends.
Upper Deck believes that we should do whatever we can to make being deployed a little easier for our heroes abroad, which is why we came up with the “Million Pack March for the Troops.” Through a strategic partnership with Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that sends care packages to U.S. Military serving overseas, we are hoping to get 1,000,000 packs of sealed trading cards donated by Veteran’s Day 2010. In an effort to reach this goal, Upper Deck will match every pack donated by patriotic Americans.
“Everyone I knew in Iraq who collected really enjoyed it,” said Mattson. “Opening packs and trading cards in Iraq made you feel like you really had a piece of home with you and it was great to be doing something that wasn’t combat related. I had my friends send me some packs while I was deployed and when you receive them it’s an awesome feeling. It really takes your mind of everything and you’re actually excited.”
“Collectors should donate to Upper Deck’s ‘Million Pack March for the Troops’ because when you are deployed overseas, there is really no way to collect. You have no hobby shops, no way to get cards and certainly no reminders of the sports you love over there. Your donations could serve to make a lot of soldiers happy, to help provide them a real thrill, to help make them feel closer to home, and most importantly to take their mind off everything going on around them.”
Sadly, during his service in Iraq, Josh Mattson was injured by a roadside bomb on May 15, 2006. The bomb detonated about three meters from the front passenger side of the truck and shrapnel pierced the armor and was lodged in his left leg. Josh also suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and a broken left knee in the explosion. Josh continues to receive treatment at the VA hospital while he does physical therapy on his leg. He is working hard at his recovery and doing well. He medically retired as a Staff Sergeant due to his combat injuries December, 2007.
Oddly enough we found Josh when he contacted us because he was thinking about those he left behind. He was looking to work with us on getting care packages to other soldiers serving abroad, before he knew about the “Million Pack March for the Troops.” With your help, Josh can focus on getting better and his own collection while we work on getting packs to the troops. We encourage you to donate sealed packs of Upper Deck trading cards for this program by sending them to the following address:
Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
Attn. Upper Deck’s Million Pack March for the Troops
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
If you are looking to trade out your Lions cards or would just like to thank him for his service, Josh Mattson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.