CJ Stroud helps surprise Purple Heart recipient and son with tickets to Super Bowl LVIII

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Saturday, January 27, 2024
Texans quarterback CJ Stroud to send USMC Sergeant Craig Mazeska and son to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas
Texans quarterback CJ Stroud is sending a military veteran and his son on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Super Bowl. Stroud also pledged to spend time with them while in Vegas, attending the Big Game's festivities.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In his brief yet brilliant time as the Houston Texans quarterback, ABC13 learned how much family has influenced the journey of C.J. Stroud. He says some of that impact comes from family members who have served in the military.

This week, Stroud delivered a once-in-a-lifetime surprise to a deserving military veteran.

Through his partnership with the United Services Automobile Association and the Air and Space Forces Association, Stroud announced via social media that he is sending Sgt. Craig Mazeska and his son to next month's Super Bowl LVIII as the recipients of a Salute to Service ticket giveaway. Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, has also pledged to spend time with Craig while in Vegas, attending Super Bowl week festivities.

"Beyond football, my family is one of the most influential parts of my life," Stroud said in a statement provided to ABC13. "I especially appreciate the lessons learned from my loved ones who have served in the military. Like some in my family, Marine Corps veteran Sgt. Craig Mazeska selflessly served our country, so I'm honored to join USAA and the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA) to send Sgt. Mazeska and his son to the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, where I look forward to meeting them."

Now retired, Sgt. Mazeska had overseas deployments to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq as a combat engineer in the United States Marine Corps. In addition to being awarded a Purple Heart, Craig also received a Combat Action Ribbon and a Kuwait Liberation Medal.

During a visit with ABC13 via Zoom, Sgt. Mazeska admitted that his service to our country took a toll on his health. He also encourages fellow veterans to reach out for help and stop suffering silently while falling into what he calls an "unfortunate trap" of self-medicating.

"My first thought goes back to all the many others - those that that didn't come home," Sgt. Mazeska said while discussing being the recipient of a Super Bowl trip. "I, unfortunately, do spend quite a bit of time laying down. I can't get out of bed for periods of time. But there are those that are much worse off than I am, and those that have already moved on as a result of similar exposures and things from serving overseas. My son and my family have seen me struggle and be in a lot of pain through periods of time over the years. I feel as if this is a way to get some cool points and reward them to a certain degree."

But this reward could go to the next level.

In fact, Sgt. Mazeska is a huge Baltimore Ravens fan. Craig and his son are already going to the Super Bowl. With a win on Sunday, their favorite team could be there, too.

And the Ravens are in the AFC title game only because they beat C.J. Stroud and the Texans.

"It's surreal that we just played the Texans, and then days later, I get this opportunity," Mazeska shared. "And that the Ravens are still in the running in a big way. I feel like it's a dream, and I'm waiting for someone to wake me up."

If the Ravens defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's AFC Championship, they'll advance to Super Bowl LVIII.

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