DENVER - As an Air Force cadet, Ben Garland flew F-16 fighter jets.
How cool is that?
As a Broncos offensive lineman, he would be expected to protect another national treasure: "Nobody gets to Peyton," Garland said with a laugh.
Flying fighter jets is in Garland's past. He's on to bigger things now, and I don't mean football. On Wednesday in Lone Tree, Garland will host an event titled "Bags to the Future." It's a fundraiser for the SoDE Solution - a project started by Garland and several of his Air Force buddies about five years ago.
Then on Memorial Day, Garland, a first lieutenant, officially will be promoted to the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force. How cool is that?
"I've been given an opportunity," Garland said. "I'm going 100 miles per hour every day to make the most of it."
His work with the SoDE Solution is seven kinds of awesome. The foundation helps women who have been victimized by human trafficking get their lives back.
It takes them from an unthinkable situation and gives them a chance.
Here's an example: with just $6,000 in donated money, the SoDE Solution helped seven victims of human trafficking open businesses around the world, he said. Some of the money helped build a fence around an orphanage so the bad people can't get in. Some of the money helped a woman open a salon. All of the money is well spent.
"Whenever you rescue these women from sex trafficking, they often end up going back into prostitution. It's a really sad cycle," Garland said. "Our mission is to rehabilitate these girls. Help them find a job, learn a trade, start a salon, whatever. Just get them on their feet and give them a running start to a better life."
The SoDE Solution began at the academy, by four or five athletes who needed a senior project and wanted to make a difference. "SoDE comes from a Greek word that means rescue and restore," Garland said. It starts at home, in the U.S., and its efforts have expanded to five continents where sex trafficking is a real, awful thing.
This spring Garland was scheduled to travel to Africa and meet some of the victims who are trying to reclaim their lives. It didn't work out. Next year, he said.
"We want to help the hopeless," he said. "We want to make a real solution."
A member of the practice squad last season, Garland traveled with the Broncos to the Super Bowl in New Jersey. After that, he went to work. To meet his obligations with the National Guard, Garland worked 48 half-days at Buckley Air Force Base.
"Usually it's during the weekends," he said. "But our weekends are kind of busy."
Oh, yeah. He's also trying to make the Broncos' 53-man roster.
Prior to the 2013 season, Garland transitioned from the defensive line to the offensive line. A nose guard at Air Force, he hadn't played on the O-line since Central High School in Grand Junction.
"Honestly, I loved the move," said Garland, who dropped 35 pounds to improve his mobility. "I saw it as an advantage and a disadvantage. It's an advantage because I knew everything the defense was thinking. It's a disadvantage because I'm learning an offense, changing my body. But I take that as a challenge. I love a challenge."
Will Garland work his way onto the Broncos' 53-man roster next season? I don't know. I do know John Elway and John Fox have an affinity for Garland because of what he stands for and how he works.
When the Broncos talk about their strong locker room, Garland isn't the central part of the theme. But he's a part of the theme.
"When Peyton got back (from a USO Tour in Afghanistan last year), he was telling me how life-changing the experience was for him," Garland said. "I think that's what makes him such a cool guy, how he gets the big picture, you know?"
Speaking of the big picture: this time next week Garland will be a captain in the Air Force. This time next week he will have raised a couple of thousand dollars to rescue and restore the lives of people he's never met.
How cool is that?
Bags to the Future
Where: LoDo's Bar and Grill, Lone Tree
More information: SodeSolution.org
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