Veteran wins Super Bowl tickets thanks to Vet Tix
It took a few seconds for the good news to fall. Three days after the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals secured their Super Bowl spots, Eddie Cerda’s cell phone rang with a surprise message.
The Navy veteran was going to join them — or at least watch from the stands at SoFi Stadium — and it would only cost him a small delivery fee.
He didn’t check in right away.
“Then I had this big smile on my face,” he said. “I thought, ‘Actually, I’m going to the Super Bowl!'”
Cerda won both Vet Tix tickets. The non-profit organization partners with major sports teams, leagues, promoters, organizations, venues and ticket holders to provide free tickets to active duty troops and veterans across the country.
The only cost is the processing fee. Five percent of this sum goes to the management of the company and the rest is reinvested to give more tickets.
“I thought I’d check their website right after the AFC and NFC championship games,” said Cerda, who lives in Los Angeles and receives care at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System.
It turned out to be a good decision.
Vet Tix got two seats directly from the NFL. More than 11,000 people have signed up for the chance to get them, said Steve Weintraub, Vet Tix’s chief strategy officer.
“It’s funny because I look at ticket prices every year, and those tickets were at least $5,000 each,” Cerda said.
He decided to use the other ticket for his brother and almost texted him the news.
“I started texting and I stopped,” Cerda continued. “I had to tell him in person to see his reaction. It was worth seeing it. He just looked very, very shocked, like someone had run over his cat.
And that’s why, Weintraub said, Vet Tix does what it does.
“The slogan of our organization is to give something back to those who have given,” he said. “If you’re an E-5 or a veteran, and you have a family and two kids, and you’re making $40,000 a year, you don’t have any money in your budget for entertainment. But now, with Vet Tix, you can take your family to a game, you can afford hot dogs, sodas and a cap. It instills that pride that you can bring to your family. If you’ve served your country, you deserve to be able to watch a baseball game.
Weintraub, a Marine Corps vet, knows the fight firsthand. He spent 32 years in uniform – 10 years on active duty and 22 years in the reserve – and served in Somalia and Iraq. But when he first left active duty in 1994 as a first lieutenant, the position he held failed. He found himself doing manual labor in the sweltering Arizona sun for low pay.
“I thought I was going to have a great job,” he said. “Instead, I sandblast paint on the highway. There just weren’t a lot of comprehensive employment and transition services for veterans back then. I had a hard time getting out of it. Was it personal? Yes. So if I can help others with their transition or help them when they’re away, that’s the best job to have.
Cerda said the free tickets were a treat. He parted ways with the navy after four years working as a hull maintenance engineer, and now works two part-time jobs while studying for a degree in journalism.
“It’s a great feeling to know that people care enough about you to give away those tickets and as a veteran you can go out and have a good time with your family,” added Cerda. “Most people who use it can’t afford to go to these events any other way. These are veterans helping other veterans. Whenever I meet people, I give them the website information and tell them to sign up.
Cerda said he still hopes and dreams of returning to the big game if his beloved Chicago Bears ever return. But otherwise, he will never forget his Super Bowl experience.
“You just walk up and see the stadium and all the signs with ‘Super Bowl this’ and ‘Super Bowl that’ and then walk inside the stadium with all these people,” Cerda said. “The best part was the game was a real bite to the end. You could feel the possibility in the stands with the Bengals fans screaming and screaming with the penalties at the end.
“It was all pretty amazing. I was actually at the Super Bowl. I told my brother afterwards that it was so cool, but I felt like it didn’t happen. It was almost like a dream. But shoot, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I have pictures to prove I was there.
Vet Tix has so far distributed 11,365,450 tickets for 130,807 events. Active duty members and veterans can register for a chance to get tickets on Vettix.org.