After having spent nine years taking care of our war wounded service members, with all its heartbreaks and tragedies, the one thing I value most is opportunities to see how well my former patients have done. For me, to watch these men and women recover, get married, have children, play hockey, basketball, compete in the Para Olympics, graduate from college, is my assurance the care I gave them made a difference.
Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to attend a charity softball game in which the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (http://www.woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org) took on the NFL Players Association Team. As I scrolled through the team’s roster I realized I had taken care of over half of them. It was great for me to be there and watch the smiles and laughter come from men I had last seen pale, thin, scared and in pain. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to see their recoveries. It makes all the sorrow and the emotional turmoil of caring for wounded warriors worth it. Which made what happened on the softball field that much more a travesty.
I walked around the stadium looking at the outfield and saw the wounded warriors warming up next to the NFL players. As the players were introduced, I found a seat and watched the fist bumps and high fives of team members gearing up to play with a smile on my face. As the announcer came to the last NFL player to be identified he prefaced it with “he’s not here yet ladies and gentlemen but he’s on his way”. The name Michael Vick was announced. I have always believed in giving people the benefit of the doubt and this particular person’s claim of “turning his life around” was no different. However actions speak louder than words and what transpired over the next couple of hours was truly appalling.
The game progressed, the wounded warriors trouncing the NFL players; the final score 25-8. The NFL players on the field laughed and joked with the warriors and at one point there was an impromptu “brawl” that cleared the benches and had everyone in the stands laughing.
With the wounded warriors on the field, the NFL players up to bat, a full 30 minutes into the game, the announcer calls everyone’s attention to the fact that Michael Vick has now arrived. Since it seemed to be mandatory everyone acknowledge his presence the entire game was stopped. Mr. Vick walked straight across the field and headed directly for the dugout, never stopping to speak with any of the players. Perhaps he was uncomfortable meeting the amputees, perhaps he didn’t know what to say, or how to shake hands as some of them don’t have hands to shake. Maybe he was self conscious? I was still willing to give the benefit of the doubt, as not everyone loves these wounded warriors as much as I do.
However, not once did Mr. Vick emerge from the dugout, not once did he take the field to actually play softball. Only when the announcer and some in the crowd began chanting “we want Vick” did he bother to come out and take a turn at bat. Once at bat, when he finally managed to hit the softball, he simply dropped the bat at home plate and walked off the field. He didn’t try to run, didn’t acknowledge his team members, didn’t have another NFL player run for him. He walked off the field and back to the dugout.
I don’t know who was more stunned, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team or the crowd. I could see the looks on the amputees faces as they stood there trying to comprehend what happened. I can only imagine the thoughts running through the minds of these combat veterans. I sat numb with shock at the complete and total disrespect shown to these men. Military service members who have given their limbs in protection of Mr. Vick, his freedoms and his ability to act like an ass. I could only sit and shake my head trying to clear the lump in my throat and the tears from my eyes. The game ended and I’d like to think Mr. Vick came out of the hole and talked with the softball team, he could learn a lot from them. I don’t know if he ever did or not, I have no great hope he did.
One last thing before I end. I gotta tell ya, Mr. Vick, there’s a reason why people don’t like you and you’ve just given me another one. Your callus treatment of these men is appalling, disgusting and disgraceful.