Whether an active-duty or retired service member, or a civilian with no tie to the military, when one of our country’s men or women in uniform walk by a missing limb or holding a cane, one cannot help but feel a wave of sadness laced with a strong hint of pride.
Such was a common sight with select patients of the Wounded Warrior Battalion - East aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Brooke Army Medical Center aboard Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as they attended the Armed Forces Bowl 2010 in Dallas, Texas, Dec. 28 to 30.
The AFB 2010 was a two-part event with one day dedicated to the wounded warriors’ introduction to various employment recruiters from major U.S. corporations to turn in their resumes as a head-start to obtaining a job after they leave the service. The next day, they attended a post-college football game and were recognized for their sacrifices in front of thousands of fans.
“The main focus of this trip is for the transition of ill or injured patients into civilian life with a ‘foot in the door’ with big name corporations,” said Capt. Steven Miller, officer in charge of the Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program, WWBN - East. “The other focus is to have this be a natural environment for the wounded warriors where they can lay back and relax instead of feeling like a petting zoo exhibition.”
The trip started with a C-130 flight out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas; a day dedicated to checking in and receiving any additional information about the trip. The following day is when the wounded warriors, employment recruiters and other participants attended the recognition and kickoff luncheon at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, where the service members were staying.
“It’s important for the young guys with not too much time in service to take advantage of opportunities like these,” said Gunnery Sgt. Tim Murray, patient with WWBN - East. “Those wounded warriors who won’t be receiving retirement pay need to take hold of any job options they come across.”
After the warriors’ resumes were completed, the Marines were free to explore historic Fort Worth and all the famous lone star splendor the town had to offer.
The next day was game day as the wounded warriors headed to Dallas to the Gerald J. Ford Stadium where the United States Military Academy West Point team Army Black Nights faced off against the Southern Methodist University team Southern Methodist Mustangs. The wounded warriors were given skybox seats to overlook the gridiron onslaught in comfort.
During the halftime session, the wounded warriors were lined up in the end zone where their service and sacrifice was recognized by the thousands of fans whom exploded in applause as the wounded protectors of their country stood before them.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Lance Cpl. Shawn Lopez, patient with the WWBN - East. “It’s been a pretty rough year for all of us. It’s very humbling, heartwarming things like this that make you realize people really do care about us.”
At the conclusion of the game, the Black Knights bested the Mustangs 16 to 14; a close game. Yet with the love of the sport and the caliber of attendees, the teams weren’t in it to win, but to put on a show for the troops.
Following the game, the wounded warriors got up close and personal with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band as they preformed a post-game concert for the troops and participants. The wounded warriors got their photos taken with Sinise, enjoyed renditions of such songs as Purple Haze, Sweet Home Alabama, The Devil Went Down to Georgia and an unforgettable duet of A Natural Woman with Miller up on stage as the figure of the two singers’ affections.
As the concert wound down and the wounded warriors reluctantly made their way back to the awaiting C-130, the dual face of the trip was not to soon be forgotten: the Marines were given a head-start in their finding employment after their tour of duty is completed, and they, as well as all of the participants involved, will forever remember that there are those who do deeply care.