This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the WWAST and Long Island. In the meantime please feel free to visit the event webpage www.warriorsny.org or on facebook, www.facebook.com/wwastny and learn, like and share the event. Or call Joe Bart at 631- 840-7787.
A Limitless World
No quit. No limits. No excuses. The National Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. Theirs is not a war story, nor a political story. Theirs is a story of a world with limits does not have to be limited. It is a kid story, it is a Long Island story.
They are a softball team like you’ve never seen. Nearly twenty veterans of the post-9/11 era have come together to form WWAST; the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. As their name suggests, everyone on the team was injured in the line of duty and wears prosthesis of some sort. Their mission: “to raise awareness, through exhibition and celebrity softball games, of the sacrifices and resilience of our military, and highlight their ability to rise above any challenge.” They are coming back to Long Island in May 2018 for the third year in a row and fifth visit in the last 6 years.
This remarkable team that has been featured on HBO, ESPN, CBS Evening News, and Sports Illustrated, just to name a few will be playing two games. Against teams made up of first responders and local all-stars. The games are free because seeing is believing. They love Long Island and its people.
These young men live all over the country. They work, they go to school, and they have families. They have no regrets and feel blessed. Three Fridays a month they each go to their local airport headed to a common destination to play softball and spread their message. Sunday afternoons they head back home. They don’t do it for the money (when playing they get $ 70 per day). They do it because it is their calling. To help others learn what they already know, you can do anything.
They feel accepting what leads to a new normal is. The highlight of their year is a week in June. It is what much of their fundraising is about. It is called KidsCamp. Twenty amputee children and a parent spend a week at a softball camp, the team picks up all expenses. It is not because they are different, but it is because they are all so normal. HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel did a complete segment on this wonderful experience. Over two million people watched as Frank Deford told the story.
Your neighbors’ friends and family have seen it on Long Island first hand when they come to town. The games are thrilling, the celebration a joy. Local events allow everyone to say hello and meet them. They are smiling all the time. It is surprising when you thank them for their service, they thank you right back.
There are many stories to be told of Long Island and the WWAST. We will tell them in the coming months. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be proud. Here is a quick one.
How Long Island became home to a WWAST player
On the first visit, right after the team was formed in 2012, a player who lived in Atlanta came in. A 22-year-old Marine who lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan. Like all visits, it was only for a weekend. He had met a beautiful girl. They stayed in touch. When the team came back to play in 2014, he decided he would marry that girl and start a family on Long Island. The date was set. The night before the wedding they had their rehearsal dinner. As he was preparing to leave he heard a woman screaming for help. She had been in a car accident, the car was burning and her baby was trapped inside. He ran, pulled out the seat and carried the baby to safety. He declared, “Who wouldn’t.”
They are now married with a beautiful baby girl. Living on Long Island as we all know is not cheap. He wanted to provide (if you are like everyone else, especially when you meet him, you have forgotten that he has no legs). He worked as a steam fitter’s apprentice, but he wanted to do more. He wanted to continue to serve. He wanted to be a Suffolk County Policeman. He applied and passed all the tests required of an able-bodied applicant. He entered the academy and was voted class president. This past May he graduated and was assigned to the first prescient. I am sure you all know the story. The story of Matias Ferreria. It was covered worldwide as he was the first double amputee policeman in the country. Matias loves when his WWAST teammates come to visit and celebrate on Long Island. He will be hoping you join them. By the way, in 2016 TOPPS made him his very own baseball card.