Story by William Selby, Defense Media Activity
Working for the Department of Defense as a journalist, I’ve done my fair share of stories about our nations wounded warriors and their trials and tribulations. On June 1, at Bowie Stadium in Bowie, Md., I was able to attend an event with wounded warriors and NFL players that made for a different experience altogether.
On the outside, the story was about a charity softball game between the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST) and players from the National Football League, including DeSean Jackson, Josh Morgan, and Torrey Smith. However, once I began speaking with the warriors and the NFL players, I realized something great about this game. There was a message to be heard here and it wasn’t about who won or lost. It wasn’t about the celebrities in the NFL. It was about a group of people coming together to raise awareness and money for the Wounded Warrior Project, the Yellow Ribbon Fund and the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team.
Not only did the game raise money for those organizations mentioned above, but also showcased how far prosthetic technology has come. Need proof? Well, the WWAST dominated the game, winning by a score of 21-5 over a group of professional athletes.
For the NFL players who participated, it was a humbling experience.
“You don’t think about losing an arm; you don’t think about losing a leg,” said Josh Morgan, wide receiver for the Washington Redskins. “You just take it for granted because you’re out there using it every day so you never think about life without it. So to hear these guys and to see them do what they do is truly an inspiration.”
“It’s always nice to have home runs in charity games,” said Torrey Smith, wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. “We had a great time — out here raising money for an amazing cause — wounded warriors and the soldiers that protect us. So, anytime you have an opportunity to support them, you do it without hesitation because they have given the ultimate sacrifice to us.”
The players were all in great spirits on both sides of the field, laughing and joking during the game. It’s obvious to anyone around them they don’t take themselves too seriously either. At one point a ball hurled into the press section down on the field which prompted Nick Clark, number 13 for the WWAST to joke to us, “Gotta keep ‘em on their toes. No pun intended.” In case you’re wondering, Nick is a below the knee amputee.
Watching them laugh and joke around the way they do, I can’t help but wonder how would I react if I were in their shoes? Would I continue to be a positive person? I’m not so sure I could be but that speaks to their spirit and will. After all the challenges and adversity they face, they come out of it smiling.
See, the players are out there still competing and doing something they like, continuing to serve their country albeit in an untraditional way. While they do still serve, as Saul Bosquez says, initially they all struggle with what to do next after sustaining their injury.
“You kind of sit around and say, ‘what’s next, what am I going to do?’ Well most of these guys came from fairly athletic backgrounds. They still want to be competitive at that level and not be restricted to a wheelchair or sit down volleyball. All of us wanted more than that and that’s why we’re on this team. For us it’s a big thing to be able to go out there and raise awareness that people with amputations can still do stuff.”
Nobody wants to be held back and told they have limits, including our Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team whose motto is, “Life without limbs is limitless!”