Wounded Warriors inspire with their indomitable spirit

It was humbling and moving to be in the presence of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team on Wednesday night at Toyota Field.

The Wounded Warriors tangled in a flag football game with an NFL Alumni team that included Randy White, Ricky Williams, Tommy Kramer, Lyle Blackwood, Dan Pastorini, Bruce Collie and Vince Young.

Every former NFL player I talked with before and after the game also expressed humility about being on the same field with combat veterans who have sacrificed so much.

"These guys are the true heroes," said White, whose stellar 14-year career as a defensive tackle with the Dallas Cowboys landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994. "Football players, yeah, we do what we do. But these guys are the true heroes that don't get any credit a lot of times.

"They're the ones who make the country safe and allow us to do the things we want to do. Anything I can do to help them or help bring awareness for them, or anything else, I'm with every one of them."

One of the neat things about living in San Antonio – aka Military City, USA – is getting the opportunity to meet men and women who have served in our armed forces.

The Wounded Warriors exemplify the best of our military with their indomitable spirit and outlook on life. It was uplifting to see how these men have battled back from their horrific injuries. They truly are a band of brothers.

Army veteran Rico Roman, who had his left leg amputated above the knee after being injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq 7½ years ago, wasn't planning to play in Wednesday night's game. He was getting in his car in a parking lot at Morgan's Wonderland, where he plays wheelchair soccer and wheelchair basketball, when an official with the game invited him to play.

Morgan's Wonderland is across the street from Toyota Field, where the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League play their home games.

"When he asked me if I wanted to play, I said sure, and here I am," said Roman, who lives in Windcrest with his wife and two children.

Roman, 33, served in the Army for nine years before retiring as a staff sergeant in 2009. Born and raised in Portland, Ore., he has lived in San Antonio for six years.

Roman served three tours in Iraq and was injured in February 2007.

"I was running a vehicle checkpoint and my vehicle struck an IED," Roman said. "I was in the lead vehicle and got hurt. But I'm happy to be here and happy to be alive. This is a great event. I love San Antonio. It's Military Town, USA. Before I was in the service, I thought I'd never live in a military town.

"But now that I've lived here and experienced it, I'm so happy to be here. A lot of people care about our service people here and are proud of our veterans. Nowhere else in the United States have I felt like I do in San Antonio."

Roman and his buddy, Army Staff Sgt. Jen Lee, played on the U.S. sled hockey team that won the gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in March.

Like Roman, Lee was a late addition to the Wounded Warrior football team that played in Wednesday night's game.

"It's really kind of funny," said Lee, who is still on active duty. "I was just going to come here to support our Wounded Warrior service members. I went up the sideline to say hi, and then one of the ladies pulled me and Rico over and gave us a jersey, told us to play."

Lee, who has been in the Army for 10 years, also had his left leg amputated above the knee.

"I don't talk about my injuries," he said.

Lee, 28, also was effusive in his praise of San Antonio's military tradition.

"Anywhere in the radius of San Antonio, it's such a huge pro-military support," Lee said. "It's just great. I'm very blessed, thankful and happy that I'm here."

Roman spent a year at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., before getting moved to the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, where he continued his rehabilitation. The Center for the Intrepid, located next to the San Antonio Military Medical Center, is renowned for its work with amputees and burn victims.

"It's an amazing facility," Roman said. "It's one of the top in the nation. The staff is amazing. The rehab guys that come in there are great. I credit my walking and running around to the staff there. I definitely wouldn't have been able to do it on my own."

As we talked, the action on the field continued. Even with prosthetic limbs, these guys can still play ball well.

"I think it's that spirit of not giving up," Roman said. "No matter what obstacle they put in front of us, we're going to keep going. That's something we learned in the service, no matter what branch you're in.

"We all have that same common goal, which is to get better and keep being productive in our lives and society. It's great to come out here and show that even with missing legs, nothing is impossible."

The Wounded Warriors prove that every day.


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