"Total shock."

Those are the words Scott Buis uses to describe receiving a hand-written letter from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Not only is Buis a lifelong Chiefs fan whose favorite player just so happens to be Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP. The Columbia resident also was one of seven service members selected to be highlighted through the league's Salute to Service campaign.

The initiative honors those who bravely served their country and encourages fans to join superstars like Mahomes in writing thank you notes to service members, veterans and their families.

“When I received the letter from Mr. Mahomes, it almost felt like I won the lottery,” Buis said. “I feel very lucky, very blessed and fortunate."

Buis, 40, served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2004 as a communication specialist. He now works for Welcome Home in Columbia to help homeless veterans.

After being nominated earlier this year, Buis was chosen to be featured as part of the Salute to Service program, a partnership of the NFL and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Buis received the letter from Mahomes last month while a film crew was in his house. It brought him to tears. The process resulted in a three-minute segment about his story, which went viral on social media and appeared on national television.

“Without your service, there would be no football, no NFL and of course no game days, and for that reason I say thank you,” Mahomes wrote in the letter to Buis. "Your incredible sacrifice, courage and selflessness is extremely admirable not only to me and to the entire Kansas City organization, but to those throughout our country.”

Buis said football for him represents hope. Things like the letter from Mahomes, he added, inspire not only him but others to believe in the American dream.

Tough times continued for Buis following his return from Iraq, when he started experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. But all the while, he continued to follow the Chiefs overseas and after coming back to the States, with the games each Sunday giving him something to look forward to.

Mahomes wrote he was thrilled to learn that Buis’ love for the Chiefs helped him get through his years with the Army as well as when he transitioned out of the service.

Mahomes closed out the letter by writing, “Happy Veterans Day. Go Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes.”

Even in the midst of attention from the letter, Buis, who played high school football at Platte County, wants the focus to stay on Welcome Home and its effort to aid local veterans.

"During the (television) interview, they asked me what I would say to a veteran coming home, and I paused and thought about it. I was like, 'Just be there,' Buis said.

“Be there for the veteran. That’s what helped me through my transition: being with my family. They were there. I know a lot of families aren’t fortunate enough to provide that support financially, or they don’t understand mental illness or PTSD, so they push that veteran away. If that happens, I just want to say we’re here."

As the rapid rehousing program manager at Welcome Home, Buis said his job is to help veterans obtain and maintain stable housing.

He also provides peer mentorship and counseling to fellow veterans in mid-Missouri.

"I got lost when I came back," Buis said of returning home from his time with the Army, "but I decided I still have a purpose. My purpose is as a social worker to greet those veterans coming in, whether it’s my brother or sister in the military. It’ll be all right. We can get through this together."

Buis said he and his family — including his wife, Carmen, and daughter, Aria — have been touched by the recent recognition.

“I think my daughter is a little too young to really know what is going on,” Buis said. “My wife is just proud of me and really supportive."

Even after a rocky first half of the season for the Chiefs as Mahomes has battled injury, Buis likewise remains proud and supportive of his favorite team.

“I think we still have a good chance to recover and win our division,” Buis said of Kansas City, which is 6-4 on the year. “I would like to beat New England in New England. We need that. If we get healthy, I really think we have a shot, but the whole team needs to realize that they can’t rely on Mahomes to put 30 points up every game.”

While Mahomes tries to steady the Chiefs over the remainder of the season, Buis continues to help homeless veterans overcome challenges in Columbia.

"The reason why I love the Chiefs so much is we never give up," Buis said. "We just keep going and going.”

cbowie@boonvilledailynews.com