“OPC is proud and honored to be the LS Warrior’s team prosthetist for the State of Florida. We are thankful for the opportunity to work with our nation’s hero’s and assist them on game day with their prosthetic needs “
The current engagement of US Armed Forces in the Middle East was initially marked with yellow ribbons tied around trees. Later, bumper stickers, ribbon magnets, t-shirts and various ad specialties would take the place of the yellow ribbons, all proclaiming support for the troops.
Although this show of support was well-intentioned, this country was ill-prepared for the vast number of warriors who would be broken during their service to this country.
A reality tour of the facts in 2016 finds an average of one veteran committing suicide every 65-75 minutes. Many of these warriors and their families are left to handle difficult situations alone. They and the veterans they love begin to find themselves placed in boxes that ad specialties and t-shirts can’t help them out of.
They have now enrolled with the Department of Veterans Affairs and are receiving their medical care at VA Hospitals throughout the country. Some of these former athletic young men that came home facing challenges were selected for WWAST – the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, which was formed in 2011. The team has done much more than play the game of softball. Through the sport of softball, they have revealed the very real challenges that face our homecoming veterans to everyone who has seen them play or heard their stories, helped to develop innovative new prosthetic technology, inspired all they have touched, and helped themselves and others to heal.
Grow to such heights, that a new team, the Louisville Slugger Warriors, will take the field as a national “D” level slow pitch tournament team in the 2016 season.
Louisville Slugger has been supporting the wounded warrior efforts in many ways since 2011, and once again is at the forefront of support.
“We understand, as competitors ourselves, the need to fulfill these guys’ dreams to play at a higher competitive level around the country,” said Dennis Turner of Slugger. “DT” as he is known, being a retired competitive high level softball player, wholly understands the need of these athletes to continue to challenge themselves. “At Louisville Slugger, we are proud to continue our commitment to our amputee warriors. These men have far exceeded rehabilitation expectations and challenges and deserve an opportunity to test their ability to play against whole, athletic and otherwise normal softball players.”
This high profile, competitive tournament team will consist of amputees that have been playing for close to five years now and who desire to test themselves at the next level. All players will wear and play in the next generation and best prosthetic technology available to extremely active amputees, and also help to develop new technology from their feedback.
The team will be coached by high-level and well known former All Military Softball players with impressive credentials. Two of these coaches are Gary LaFon and Josh Wiggs both currently serving in the US Air Force.
“I have had the great honor to be involved in coaching the All Air Force and amputee softball team for the last several years,” said LaFon. “This 2016 venture was envisioned as an opportunity for some of the top amputee players who have exceeded their rehabilitation goals to put their softball talents to test against mainstream competition. I look forward to working with Dennis Turner of Louisville Slugger and Josh Wiggs of All Armed Forces and USSSA Conference in showcasing our nation’s heroes as ambassadors for disabled veterans and active duty soldiers with amputations everywhere. Having worked with both in the past I know their support will be phenomenal. I am humbled to be a part of this new project and excited to get started – I know our players are too.”
“Being asked to coach this team of heroes is a true honor and something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” added Wiggs. “I have been enlisted in the United States Air Force for 15 years now and military softball has been a huge part of my life and career. I’m an eight-time All Air Force softball player with five gold medals at the Armed Forces Championships as well as a USSSA Military World champion. Coaching the Louisville Slugger Warriors is going to be a very humbling experience and a great way to give back to these guys. I’m very excited and can’t wait to get things started and take the field with this amazing group!”
The amputee softball players featured on the Louisville Slugger Warriors will include US Military Veterans and Active Duty Personnel who are service-connected as their amputation will have taken place while in the military or resulted from an injury that took place while in the service.
As well as pushing their own limits, the team will be active role models for other injured and disabled military veterans and injured active duty personnel, and ambassadors for the game of softball and the five branches of service. The team will be playing the game of softball designated by the rules and regulations of the tournament they have been entered in.
To enhance their softball game, these players will be provided and play with the newest and top-of-the-line softball equipment from Louisville Slugger (including Louisville Slugger Custom Uniforms from ShirtsandLogos), Boombah, Pacific Headwear, Majestic and New Era. Other major sponsors include USSSA, Jennie Finch, Brian Wegman, Jerry Backman, Margaritaville, Hy Cite Enterprises, Orthotic & Prosthetic Centers (OPC) and American House Senior Living Communities.
Keep an eye on the entrants at your tournaments this year for the Louisville Slugger Warriors – and be prepared to play pretty damned hard if you find them on the same bracket line as your team.
David Van Sleet
Louisville Slugger Warriors