By Sgt. William E. Henry, Indiana National Guard
Members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team pose for a pre-game photo before playing against and with NFL alumni in a flag football game at the Indianapolis Indoor Sports Park, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Front row: Josh Wege, Cambellsport, Wis., team coach David Van Sleet, Kyle Earl, Mount Pleasant Mich., Tim Horton, Sulpher Springs, Texas, and Greg Reynolds, Greg Reynolds, Dighton, Mass. Back row: Saul Bosquez, Adrian, Mich., Matthew Kinsey, Rockville, Ind., Dan Lasko, Bethlehem, Penn., and Brian Uerrela, St. Louis. Indiana National Guard photo by Sgt. William E. Henry, Public Affairs
INDIANAPOLIS – Military amputees facing off against NFL alumni in a flag football game may seem like an uneven match-up, but the men of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team put up a fight at the Indianapolis Indoor Sports Park, Feb. 1.
This was the first ever wounded warrior event of its kind and many NFL alumni attended the event: multiple Super Bowl winning Pittsburg Steeler and former Vietnam War veteran Rocky Bleier, St. Louis Rams Super Bowl winning Coach Dick Vermeil, Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood, and former Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks Jeff George and Jim Sorgi among many others.
Also in attendance were Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Indiana National Guard Adjutant
General, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger and Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David.
|Former Indianapolis Colts Quarterback, Jim Sorgi, right, stands with Operation Enduring Freedom Army veteran Matthew Kinsey, a right foot amputee from Rockville, Ind., watching a flag football game attended by NFL alumni at the Indianapolis Indoor Sports Park, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Kinsey of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team was among eight members to play against and with NFL alumni, raising awareness for wounded service members and amputees. Indiana National Guard photo by Sgt. William E. Henry, Public Affairs |
Bleier, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, helped sponsor the event and said events like these raise awareness for everyone involved.
“This event really elevates an exposure to our young Soldiers coming back, our young wounded warriors. And to showcase their drive, their talent, the ability to use their prosthetics, and that life can be normal no matter what the obstacle may be in front you,” said Bleier.
Umbarger was invited to be the honorary coach for the wounded warrior's team and said he appreciated the opportunity.
“When I first got called I was deeply honored and I was humbled that I could even be around these heroes. For me, to be able to be here and meet them it's really special and I value it a lot,” he said.
The wounded warrior team is a group of athletic young men who have sustained severe injuries resulting in amputation while serving in the military. Through extensive rehabilitation and determination they have managed to continue doing what they say they love to do, playing sports. According to the WWAST website, the team’s mission is to raise awareness of the sacrifices and resiliency of U.S. military men and women.
Operation Enduring Freedom Army veteran Matthew Kinsey, a right foot amputee and former Rockville, Ind., high school football athlete, said he was excited to be given the chance to play on the field with NFL players.
“It's like a dream come true. It's just like a chance to be an athlete and a lot of people aren't lucky enough to get a second chance to be an athlete. For us, to be able to come out here and do this, it means everything,” he said.
Former Massachusetts Army National Guardsman, Greg Reynolds, and Operation Iraqi Freedom left arm amputee from Dighton, Mass., said he was grateful to be in Indianapolis spreading the message of wounded warriors.
“I promote a positive and active lifestyle, regardless of any situation. The most powerful thing we have is our minds. There are a lot of things in life outside of our control, but the one thing that we do have control over is our attitude,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds said he has inspired many amputees in his volunteer work and it promotes a positive outlook on things.
“There is life after injury. That's the biggest message that we can convey to anybody. Life without a limb is limitless.”
For more information about the WWAST please visit, http://www.woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org