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Disabled Iraq veterans meet baseball stars.

Wounded Iraq War veterans gazed about Washington's baseball cathedral called RFK Stadium admiring the immaculate field of green as the boys of summer swatted baseballs around the park. The Iraq War veterans from Walter Reed Army Medical Center were there to meet star pitchers Barry Zito of the Oakland A's and Chad Cordero of the Washington Nationals. Some were missing limbs, while others had less obvious but just as painful wounds. They walked with the aid of crutches, canes, or a walker, their wounds were still painful and fresh, but all were excited to meet two of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball.

The dozen young solder, wanted to thank Barry Zito In, creating the Strikeouts for Troops program, in which participating Major league Baseball pitchers donate S100 tie each strikeout to assist wounded service members and their families. The soldiers asked to meet Zito because he was doing something important for them, and Assistant National Service Director Brian E. Austin helped make it happen.

"The DAV worked with officials front both the Washington Nationals and Oakland A's, in addition to Zito's Strikeouts on Troops program, to make this happen," said Austin.

Two of the wounded didn't think they could physically go out on the field because of the pain from their wounds, but when the time came, they extended themselves to join with their fellow soldiers on the ballfield. They wouldn't let the opportunity pass.

On the field. Cordero and Zito greeted them Irish appreciation and compassion. They accepted the thanks of the troops graciously, but their concern and gratitude was obvious in their eyes. It was Cordero and Zito who thanked the soldiers for their sacrifice in service to of our country.

Zito invited the soldiers to the A's dugout. At first, the two soldiers suffering pain felt they couldn't make the short walk from behind home plate. But through sheer determination, they joined the others, and received an auto-graphed baseball in person for their effort. They had extended themselves further to be with a new friend, Barry Zito.

"It was some of the first steps they will lake on their road to recovery and rehabilitation," said Austin. "They were able to do it, and that was the important thing for these proud young soldiers who used to nun miles at a time."

"The steps they took at RFK taught them that despite their disabilities, they can have fulfilling lives when their wounds heal,' said Austin. "They experienced a moment in the growth of spirit. They had excelled."

When it was time to depart, some soldiers walked back into the stands, and others, including the most fragile soldiers, were taken by cart to their seats. As they left, Zito watched, his thoughts remaining his own. But the wonder was obvious on his face.

"The soldiers he met are America's most important treasure." said Austin. "They served with honor and courage. They asked for nothing but to say thanks to a man they appreciated, and they got to meet Barry Zito and Chad Cordero.

In the stands as the game began, the soldiers buzzed about how great Barry and Chad had been and how they really appreciated both spending time with them. They had their auto-graphed baseballs that they kept admiring--as if it all had been a dream and the baseball might disappear if they awoke. Some were sore, but they said it was worth it to meet Barry, and thank him for caring about them.
2005 DAV at the Ballpark

Home Team Game Date Opponent

Atlanta Braves Mon., Sept. 5 New York
Texas Rangers Sun., Sept. 18 Seattle
San Diego Padres* Mon., Sept. 26 San Francisco

*Veterans' Night Event All game times and dates are subject to change
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Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Publication:DAV Magazine
Geographic Code:1U5DC
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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Next Article:DAV days at the ballpark a real winner.

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