Linked Through Service
Prior to the Third Annual Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic this Sunday, members of the team joined with celebrity participants and Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen to go help their fellow heroes. Omar Miller (CSI: Miami), Brian Dietzen (NCIS) and Sakina Jaffrey (House of Cards) joined the Wounded Warrior team on a trip to Ft. Belvoir, where they met with groups of veterans using another sport – golf – to help them reacclimate to life after combat. Much like softball, the sport helps bring a measure of normalcy and serenity back to these soldiers’ lives.
Steve Griner is the head PGA Professional of the Ft. Belvoir Wounded Warrior Golf Program, which currently enrolls about 80 veterans and family members.
“I guess one would say, unfortunately, the numbers keep growing,” said Griner of the program’s enrollment. “But we’re helping more and more people. It’s always unfortunate that there are people that have been injured serving their country. But, if that work has to be done, for me to have a part in that, it’s just inspiring.”
After greeting and getting to know many of the members of the program over lunch, the group took to the driving range to hit some balls. While Stammen, a 3.5 handicap, showed off his talent in a second sport (he even grooved an iron shot left-handed), some of the most impressive hits of the day came from Wounded Warrior Greg Reynolds. The WWAST member is missing his entire right arm, but was still smacking shots deep into the range with just his lead arm to provide the power and stability.
For Dietzen, the opportunity to come out and play on a Major League field was certainly a perk, but the reward of getting to know the stories of the Wounded Warriors and playing with them side-by-side provided a greater gift.
“These guys that go out and do everything for us,” said Dietzen, who had previously worked with wounded veterans during a benefit golf tournament out in Los Angeles. “The very least we can do as a country is look after them when they come home, and that doesn’t just mean give them a job and go back to work.”
Miller has been a part of a USO Tour, much like Stammen and fellow Nationals pitcher Ross Detwiler. While he had never worked with wounded veterans before, he realized the significance of the opportunity when it was presented to him, putting this weekend’s events above his own personal schedule.
“I was actually on my way to Vegas for the fight,” said Benson Miller, referencing the championship boxing match taking place this weekend. “And I said, ‘No, you know what? Let me prioritize. This is a lot more important.’ It’s great to come out, hang out, and have fellowship with the guys.”
Stammen, as many know, accompanied the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on a USO tour last winter. That experience combined with his life as a professional ballplayer and avid golfer made him a perfect candidate to be able to appreciate and understand how both sports can help enrich lives.
“It’s just another way to get away from the aspects of real life, and it puts your mind on something else for about three or four hours,” said Stammen, referencing golf, though he might as well have been talking about baseball.
As for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, Stammen has seen them up close and personal each of the last two seasons, as well as in visits to Nationals Spring Training. He’s looking forward to seeing them again after the Nationals finish their series with the Phillies.
“They’re really good at what they do,” he said of the team’s success. “It’s inspiring what they do, and I think it’s going to be an enjoyable evening for everybody.”