I never served with an officer like former Marine Captain Brian Stann. Sure, my commanders were all fine and upstanding men and women. But Stann is like a walking, breathing action figure. He's square jawed, muscle bound to the point of looking cut out of granite, playing the part of the super hero as he charges fearlessly into danger, leaving destruction in his wake.
And it's more than that. When he's being interviewed he looks his inquisitor in the eye. He is never flustered and addresses questions with a straight forward intelligence that stands out in a sea of "you knows" and "you know what I'm saying?" Earlier in his career, these looks were deceptive. Stann looked like a superstar, but the results didn't match the hype. Since joining Greg Jackson's all star camp in New Mexico, "The All American" Stann has added technique and strategy to his unquestionable heart and power. The combination has created a dangerous fighter and one service members can take special pride in.
For those of us who've worn the uniform, this is a special weekend. The men and women who serve in the armed forces, and their families, understand what it means to sacrifice for the greater good. Stann is a living embodiment of what we represent. He served with distinction in the Global War on Terror, winning the Silver Star in a furious firefight in Iraq. Not every soldier is so lucky - some never make the trip home, men like Army Staff Sgt. Kristofferson B. Lorenzo who lost his life to an enemy explosive this week in Afghanistan. Stann understands what the holiday weekend is all about - and savvy enough to use it to help soldiers.
"It's important for me to fight on Memorial Day," Stann said at the prefight press conference. "I asked to fight on Memorial Day. I knew there would be an onslaught of media to do during that time, and I think it's important. It sheds more light on things that need to come to light, things like The Boot Campaign and things like my charity, Hire Heroes USA.
"For a while there I was resistant, but now I’ve had to learn to accept the role of representing those veterans, and using the attention that I get for the UFC for the betterment of their services in America and for my charity. I think it’s a big deal, and for me, I’m usually angry on this weekend anyway and feel like fighting, so why not get paid for it? Plus, I got an amazing fight out of it."
For many warriors like Stann, leaving their comrades behind to move on with their own lives can be hard. Strikeforce fighter Tim Kennedy has talked about the difficulty of being at home while other are sacrificing, but Stann has found his own way to serve. Hire Heroes USA looks to find jobs for injured veterans, something more an more difficult in an anemic economy.
Still, at the end of the day, Stann isn't a fundraiser or a non profit social worker. He's a cage fighter and a darn good one. Beating Jorge Santiago should immediately make Stann a contender for middleweight gold. Stann was never in danger against Santiago, considered by most to be a legitimate top ten opponent. Stann controlled the action with hard leg kicks and flustered the Brazilian with his power. Facing champion Anderson Silva is a monumental challenge - but Stann has faced bigger in his life and seen them through to the end.