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Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team
Members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team greet members of the Hickam Force and Hickam Chiefs during player introductions at the beginning of a double header Jan. 8, 2013, at Milican Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Hickam Force won the first game 18-1, but the Warriors held off the Chiefs Group to win 22-17. The WWAST is comprised of competitive, athletic veterans and active duty servicemembers who have lost limbs during post-9/11 combat operations. The team includes individuals with a variety of amputations of the arm, above knee, below knee, bilateral below knee, and foot. Some are still in the service, while others are attending college thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill while others have moved on to new careers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)
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Wounded Warriors split double header against Hickam

Posted 1/10/2013   Updated 1/10/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs

1/10/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- During a double header against Hickam Field Airmen, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team bombed out against the first team, but exploded against the second.

In back-to-back games against Hickam Force and the Hickam Chief's Group, the Wounded Warriors had a tale of two teams. In the first game against Hickam Force, the Warriors came out a little flat and unable to put runs on the scoreboard, losing 18-1. The second game proved to be a tough outing for the Hickam Chiefs Group as the Warriors took out their frustrations on the ball, winning 22-17.

The WWAST, a program that is less than two years old, is comprised of a dozen veterans representing multiple services that lost limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan, and want to show the world how well they can perform after their injuries. The team's mission is to raise awareness, through exhibition and celebrity softball games, of the sacrifices and resilience of the military, and highlight their ability to rise above any challenge. Their goal is to show other amputees and the general population, that these athletes, through extensive rehabilitation and training, are able to express their desires and perform the sport they love.

To do so, they took the field against Hickam Force and looked a little jet lagged in the first hour. Hickam Force started a barrage of hits that landed all over the field, including two monster homers by Jeff Miles, who found grass on the other side of the fence.

"This is the coolest thing I've ever done while playing softball," Miles said, a master sergeant with the 324th Intelligence Squadron. "I always heard about them playing ball and it brings tears to my eyes seeing them run and see how much heart they put into this game. I was just excited to come out here and play with these guys, so maybe I put a little extra energy into the swings."

The reputation of the Wounded Warrior's power and prowess on the diamond followed them to the island and Hickam Force wasn't taking any chances, and came out swinging for the fences. So, neither team held anything back while in the box, on the mound or on the grass.

"These guys have been known to put 40 runs up on a team, so we couldn't take them lightly," said Jeremy Akerson, a technical sergeant with the 747th Communications Squadron. "They may have had an off night against us, but I will guarantee you they take the rest of the week and smash everyone else they play."

From the beginning, the teams found a mutual respect on the diamond as ball players. The large bright yellow softball was slapped all over the field for both teams, but the Warriors couldn't seem to find any holes in the defense, only putting up three hits.

"We told them from the first night that we hung out with them that, 'they came out here to play softball, and between the lines we were gonna play them like they were any other team,'" Akerson said.

In the final out, the 18-1 shinning on the scoreboard wasn't a welcoming site for the warriors.

"I would love to sit here and make excuses about how we had time off for the holidays and we haven't been practicing as much, but when it comes down to it, it took us a while to get rolling," said Wounded Warrior left fielder Nick Clark, a former U.S. Army corporal with the 173rd Airborne. "In that first game, they put it to us."

"We want to play teams like that," said Bobby McCardel, a former U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal. "That is the kind of talent level we want to (reach). We talked about it afterward, about how we got our butts kicked; humility is a good thing. Sometimes you need to get your butt kicked a little bit to get that fire in you again. There wasn't a guy on this team that wasn't ready for a double header after that game."

Unfortunately for the Hickam Chief's Group, the Warriors found their fire and transferred it to their bats in the second game and put up 22 runs in the second game.

"I think the other team made them mad," said Rick Wood, a chief master sergeant with Pacific Air Forces. "We probably should have played them first while they were still relaxed. They just came out took their frustration out on us."

The Chiefs tried to make it interesting in the top half of the final inning by going on a 10-run rally, but ultimately fell short in the end 22-17.

"This is a special trip and a special team," said David Van Sleet, coach and general manager of the Warriors. "We have never, ever scored only one run in a game, and I'm not gonna make any excuses. We're a good team. When you hit, you can score a lot of runs, but when you don't hit, you don't score at all."

This is the first time they have played six games in five straight days. Coach believes his team is resilient and up for the challenge of playing some softball and spreading their message through their actions.

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