The Wizards’ win over the Philadelphia 76ers went a long way toward uplifting their spirits after opening the season with three consecutive losses. On Thursday, the Wizards had an opportunity to make a few of their supporters feel better when they hosted veterans from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and families from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, at the Verizon Center practice facility.
“It was terrific,” Bradley Beal said. “They lay their lives on the line for us every single day. To have people know who you are and be a part of this, it’s a big thing. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
After the soldiers and families watched practice from above, the Wizards stopped to sign autographs, shake hands and take pictures as part of the NBA hoops for troops program. John Wall accepted a challenge to engage in a shooting competition with one veteran in a wheelchair and even gave him a signed pair of his Adidas sneakers.
“There’s only one word to sum that experience up and that’s humbling. It’s just humbling to go down there. It makes you enjoy the problems that you have because what they put themselves through, and their families through I would never wish that on anybody,” Martell Webster said. “A lot of those guys will never be able to write again, yet alone drive a car and they’re upbeat and have a smile on their face. That’s amazing.”
The Wizards visited the Walter Reed center in Bethesda last month and will continue to assist members of TAPS, a non-profit organization that assists family members grieving the loss of a loved one who died in military service. Beginning with Friday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, the team will sell hats with the word, “Courage,” written in Wizards lettering, for $25 at the team store at Verizon Center.
Courage hats autographed by Beal, Wall, Nene or Webster will go for $50, while those signed by Marcin Gortat, Al Harrington, Otto Porter or Kevin Seraphin will go for $40. All of the proceeds with go toward TAPS.
“It takes a lot to muster that up especially after losing so much physically,” Webster said. “For them to come out here and be happy the way they are, it changes your whole perspective on life. It makes you appreciate the things that you have. The problems we have as basketball players doesn’t even compare to what they’ve been through for our country let alone what they put themselves through.”
Coach Randy Wittman said the experience provided a much-needed dose of perspective for his struggling team. “We try to do it a couple times a year. We sometimes think it’s tough doing what we’re doing, living the lives that we go through, the ups and downs of winning and losing basketball games. This brings to light what life is really about. These guys sacrifice for the country that we live in, freedoms and stuff that we enjoy. I really enjoy these days when these guys can come in and put a smile on their face while they’re going through tough times.”