MISSION VIEJO (CBS) — It’s been long maintained that it’s not winning that’s important. Or losing. It’s how you play the game.
And no where was that more evident today when the Orange County Veterans and First Responders softball team took on a new team made up entirely of amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Who won? Not vitally important. That the game was played? Priceless.
Stephanie Abrams, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, was at the game and she spoke to the wounded veterans.
Their sense of pride, and accomplishment, clear for anyone to see. She reported, “each player has a war story.”
Former Marine Bobby McCardle lost a leg in the war but thanks to a prosthetic, he not only walks, he runs. Greg Reynolds lost an arm. But he won’t let the loss of a limb slow him down…one-armed push-ups? No problem. “My goal is to play better than the guy with all his limbs and I say the only limitations you have are the ones you make. And as you can see I don’t make any,” he says, matter-of-fact.
Everyone who played at the event raised money for the wounded warriors. Former Los Angeles Angels Anaheim pitcher Justin Speier was there. He’s also a former Marine. He told Abrams he was inspired by these amputees and was impressed with how well they played. “I forget they are amputees. They are that good.”
The team is a non profit operating completely off of donations. They’ve played two games a month for ten months and are booked through the end of the year. All games raise money for them to keep playing. Each trip costs the team about $7500, reports Abrams.
The man who created the team, David Van Sleet, was in charge of prosthetics for the southwest part of the country for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He just retired this past week and plans to dedicate himself full time now to the team and to helping veteran amputees. He’s modest, but still happy to see his little idea take flight. “It’s amazing how you can start a spark and how big that wildfire can go.”
Today’s game a clear success, both financially and of the heart.
Organizers are already making plans, says Abrams, to make the game an annual event.