Jon Busch has confronted just about every conceivable shot on goal in his 17-year professional career. He’s jousted with target men galore, stood firm on breakaways and made spectacular leaping saves.
But Busch doesn’t consider himself to be a hero. That distinction belongs to people who risk their lives so he can chase a ball around.
So Busch has taken steps to help the country’s true saviors, donating to the Navy SEAL Foundation, which provides support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.
When the Quakes host the LA Galaxy on Saturday, June 29, at Stanford Stadium, on Military Appreciation Night, fans that purchase the “Saves for SEALs Supporters’ Section" package for $200 will receive four tickets to the match, four commemorative T-shirts, and get to watch the postgame fireworks show with the MLS All-Star keeper. With the club’s match, Busch helped raise $8,100 last season for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
Busch’s deep connection with the Navy SEALs began formulating on one of the country’s darkest days: Sept. 11, 2001, or 9/11. He lost a cousin in the 9/11 attacks, a firefighter who perished in the collapse of the Twin Towers. Then, in August 2011, after a U.S. Boeing Chinook military helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, killing all 38 people on board, including 15 members of elite Navy SEAL Team Six, Busch knew he had to do something.
“For me, it was the clarity I was looking for that said ‘this is the direction I need to go,’ ” Busch said. “I want to help these families because they’re still here. There’s wives, there’s kids, and everybody. Those are the ones that need the help. That event in August kind of shook me and gave me the direction that I needed.”
Thus, in 2011, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Busch auctioned off two pair of cleats and two pair of gloves and raised $3,000 to $4,000.
Last summer, when the Quakes rallied for a 4-3 win over the Galaxy in front of 51,000 people at Stanford on Military Appreciation Night, Busch auctioned autographed game-worn gloves with a Special Operations patch sewn on, and cleats with “9-11-01” and “Never Forget” imprinted on the shoes.
But Busch isn’t in this for personal glory.
“I don’t want it to be anything about Jon Busch,” he said. “I wanted to make sure it was about giving back to these guys who can’t get any recognition, don’t want any recognition, but they’re willing to put their lives on the line and do the so-called dirty work in order for us to have our freedom. To make it simple: I’ve been a professional soccer player for 17 years simply because people like this are so unselfish and willing to do what they do, so I have that freedom to play.
“It’s been absolutely amazing, the people I’ve met, the phone calls, or the emails I’ve received. I’ve met some of these guys now, and they absolutely just blow me away. My wife always tells me: It’s changed my life forever. I see things totally different now in life.”
Late last season, Busch got an interesting item delivered to the Quakes office. It encapsulated his relationship with the SEALs.
“It was this stuff called FrogFuel,” Busch said, still sounding amazed. “I go, ‘What the heck is this? I’ve never heard of it.’ It is kind of a protein goo that you basically just shoot in your mouth, and it’s made by two ex-SEAL guys. It basically gives you added protein and stuff while you’re working out. It was made for those guys when they’re over there on their missions or whatever. All I got was two boxes of this. No note, no nothing.”
So Busch put on his detective cap, and emailed the guy who'd sent him the mysterious package.
“He emailed me back: From the Navy SEAL family. We just want to say thank you for what you’re doing. It’s absolutely amazing what you’re doing for us and we want you to know that maybe you don’t really know it and a lot of people don’t tell you, but everybody in the Navy SEAL family knows who you are.’ It absolutely blew me away because I’m sitting there. I’m getting emotional talking about it.
"It’s just, I look at these guys. I play soccer for a living. These guys put their lives on the line every day when they go out, and they’re thanking me for what I’m doing for them. To me, that’s amazing. It should be the other way around. It’s really cool because they all know about it. They all know what we’re doing, and they’re stoked about it.”