'We have to say thank you': Coach Rivera on service, support for veterans

'We have to say thank you': Coach Rivera on service, support for veterans

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The people in the room last week with Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera know what it means to serve. They've proven it, through years of sacrifice in the United States military.

So, the event held during Panthers’ rookie camp, even if just for a few moments, was about serving them.

“I've been very fortunate to be here nine seasons,” Rivera said. “This is a very supportive community, and Stephanie and I really believe that we need to get in the community, to give back and say, ‘Thank you.’”

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It's why Rivera made it his mission to be at the event -- minutes after leaving one practice and just before the next one started.

"I'm very fortunate that I'm able to squeeze it in between (practices)," Rivera told Channel 9. "I've got coaches that are handling all that, so we're in good shape."

The head coach was called up to the stage to share his leadership experience with the group. His connection runs deep, with a father who served in the Army.

Rivera said this week’s experience was humbling.

“I've spoken with the Naval aviators. I've spoken to Special Forces groups. They all want me to come and talk about leadership, but I always reach out to them for leadership lessons,” he said.

The day was just as much about service as it was about support. Veterans Bridge Home helps raise money for military service members and their families, connecting them to jobs, human services or new friends -- few more popular than the head coach himself, surrounded by leaders and, above all, those who serve.

"These men and women have sacrificed so much for our community," Rivera said, "that we most definitely do have to say, 'Thank you.'"