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Baseball players spread cheer at Tampa Polytrauma Center.

For wounded veterans like U.S. Army Sgt. Pete Engel and Marine Corps Cpl. Sean Debevoise, their recovery from wounds suffered in Iraq is a long, grueling endeavor. Multiple serious wounds make it more difficult to restore their lives, and they spend long days and weeks in rehabilitation at the Tampa, Fla., VA Polytrauma Center making slow but steady progress.

The most seriously wounded combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hospitalized long days and months recovering from their injuries. But those at the Tampa Polytrauma Center got a great surprise June 23 when members of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays visited, bringing along autographed baseball bats and other memorabilia to make the smiles of the patients even brighter.

Devil Rays catcher Josh Paul, pitching coach Mike Butcher, third base coach Tom Foley and special advisor Don Zimmer participated in the DAV Celebrity Entertainment Program to visit recovering service members at the Polytrauma Center at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

"We had a great visit and the entire experience was very moving," said Devil Rays Vice President of Hispanic Community Outreach and Military Affairs Jose Tavarez, who accompanied the players and coaches. "It was indeed an honor and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to see and spend time with folks that have given so much to our country."

"The visit went very well," said St. Petersburg, Fla., DAV National Area Supervisor Andrew H. Marshall, who along with National Service Office Assistant Supervisor Scott P. Trimarchi, accompanied the players on the tour. "The Devil Rays players and coaches were caring and compassionate to all the patients they visited. They really brought out a lot of smiles among the wounded soldiers and Marines."

Visiting patients who suffered serious wounds such as severe brain trauma and amputations, the players and coaches watched as one veteran was learning how to use his prosthetic arm and another using a computer which helps those with brain trauma relearn how to drive a vehicle.

They witnessed veterans working on their dexterity, retraining their memory and expanding their learning ability. The Devil Rays also visited the Spinal Cord Injury Center, handing out Wade Boggs and Carl Crawford figurines and foam Devil Rays baseballs during their three-hour visit.

"I want to extend my sincere thanks and the Devil Rays' grateful appreciation to DAV for giving us the opportunity to visit with these service members," said Tavarez.

"We appreciate the sincere compassion shown by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and other baseball teams that each year visit VA medical centers as part of the Celebrity Entertainment Program," said National Director of Voluntary Services Edward E. Hartman. "The patients are thrilled to meet the ballplayers and team leaders and get autographed memorabilia during a hospital visit. It brightens their long stays and medical rehabilitation and makes everything a little better for them."
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Article Details
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Author:Wilborn, Thom
Publication:DAV Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:478
Previous Article:New medicine, new service.
Next Article:Outstanding VA employees honored.
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