A dozen recovering troops and their medical staff reveled in a pleasant May evening of America’s pastime, watching the Nationals play the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C. The group comprised the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center from the McGuire VA Hospital in Richmond, Virginia—one of five facilities in the country that specialize in care for veterans and service members dealing with multiple severe injuries.
Among the troops to attend that night was Ray, a soldier who encountered an IED blast while serving in Iraq. He sustained multiple wounds, including traumatic brain injury and the loss of his right eye. Ray was commissioned from the ROTC at Missouri University only 13 months before the incident, which happened one month before his daughter was born. As he tells it, “The doctors told my wife it would be a miracle if I ever walked again or even spoke … and now I’m talking your ears off!” Ray is so likable and unreserved that he made friends with nearly everyone sitting in his section of the stadium—high-fiving complete strangers while caught up in the dramatic plays. His enthusiasm was contagious among the unit participants.
Freedom Alliance is making an effort to host one event per quarter for the Richmond Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. The VA constantly rotates patients in and out of the unit for various treatment programs; for this reason new participants attend each quarterly event. The baseball game was Freedom Alliance’s fifth planned gathering with this unit. Previous functions include a Wizards-Lakers game in March, a luncheon with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for Army-Navy Weekend in December, a Troop Appreciation Dinner and another Nationals game last July.
Whatever the activity may be, the soldiers are always eager to forget their injuries and rehabilitative care for a few hours of fun. Their therapists also maintain that public events and crowds help to reintroduce the patient to normal societal living, thus serving as an important step in the recovery process. It is yet another enjoyable and helpful way to say to our American service members, “Thank you for your sacrifice. We do not forget it.”