I saw that the Wounded Warrior Amputee Traveling Softball Team visited with the Washington Nationals in Florida this weekend. It’s so amazing to me to see people who are able to overcome such unexpected tragedy in their lives and be able to move forward — and not just survive but actually live lives to the fullest.
To see how talented these guys are at softball and how creative they are in their approaches to playing a sport they love hits home with me.
I am the son of a Wounded Warrior. My dad Mike Arrington lost a leg and a foot in Vietnam. I can remember as a child thinking that something was wrong with me because I didn’t look like my dad. He had a tracheotomy procedure done in an attempt to save his life, which obviously leaves quite a mark on the neck. I used to wonder why I didn’t have one or why my dad was able to take his legs off and I couldn’t.
My dad was the bionic man to me — a super hero. It wasn’t until I got older that I understood my dad was seriously injured in the war.
A quick and dirty story about my dad’s injury. His unit was ambushed and was under heavy fire. As the troops scrambled, my dad jumped on his tank to man the machine gun, but before he could get off of the tank tread the driver started to pull off. The tank jerked so hard that my dad lost his balance and got his foot caught in the tread. As the tread was grinding up one leg, he used his other foot to try to push himself free. It mangled that foot but he was able to free himself. His fellow soldiers then pulled him to safety. To this day he doesn’t know who saved him, but I thank God for that person everyday.
People often asked me during my football playing days why I played the way I did. Why did I go a hundred miles per hour every play? Why did I kill myself in the weight room, or work so hard that I’d pass out?
It’s because I recall one story my father told me after I said I didn’t want to play football because it was too hard. I was eight years old. I came off the field crying and he asked what was wrong. I told him that there was too much running and I didn’t like the coaches screaming at me. Here’s the story he told me.
He remembered arriving at Walter Reed Hospital and how he had men carrying him to the restroom and how he decided then that his life would not be a life of having everyone else do things for him. So he started working with a trainer to learn how to walk. He said how hard it was, that the man who was teaching him would yell and scream and leave him lying on the ground, challenging him to get up on his own. Eventually my father figured it out, and to this day walks with only a slight limp.
After my dad told me that story, I don’t think I ever complained about hard work again. If my dad could put in the time to figure out how to walk, then the least I could do to honor him was to put in that same type of work in everything that I did.
I admire our armed forces for what they do. I am a man who was raised by a soldier. So when I see Wounded Warriors take to sports and other activities, conquering the wounds and injuries from battle, it always makes me feel so proud.
I have much respect for the Washington Nationals for making our war heroes such a part of what they do. I often spend time talking with them at the games I attend and it never gets old. Thanks to all our service men and women. You guys are truly great examples!
Please leave your comments here and chat with me on Twitter @lavararrington