Gold medals and purple hearts
Several weeks ago the United States beat Russia for a gold medal in hockey. Did you miss it? Me too.
The gold medal came in the Sled Hockey event of the Paralympics. It happened in Sochi, the same place that featured 1500 hours of Olympics television coverage two weeks earlier.
By then most of America was “Olympic-ed” out. When flame was extinguished at the Closing Ceremonies on February 23rd , it symbolized the end of the 2014 Winter Games for most of us.
It’s unfortunate, because some of the most compelling, inspiring, and unforgettable stories of courage and persistence unfolded when our attention turned back to the NHL, the NBA and March Madness.
So let’s rewind a few weeks, and give some terrific athletes their due.
The word “warrior” is used time and time again when describing athletes. In the case of the American sled hockey team ,the terminology was taken to a whole new level.
Three members of that team have Purple Hearts to go with their gold medals. They are heroes on a real field of battle, the kind of fighting turf most of us can’t even imagine.
Josh Sweeney lost both of his legs in 2009 after being hit by an IED (improvised explosive devise), while serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. Sweeney scored the only goal in the gold medal game against Russia.
“If you had told me back in 2009, that I would be on the ice again, playing hockey, I would probably have thought you were a little crazy,” Sweeney, 26, said. “It was a really hard time. I was going through a lot. I mean, how could I play hockey, given that I was lying in a hospital bed, really hurt?
“But then again, I never rule anything out in my future. I go for it. You never know where life takes you. I’m living proof of that.”
Paul Schaus of Buffalo, New York is 25 years old. Five years ago both his legs were amputated after he was injured by an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan.
“Life is not over,” Schaus said in an interview with WNET. “There’s a lot of guys that paid the ultimate sacrifice that aren’t here anymore, that don’t have the opportunity I had. The only thing I can do is take advantage of what I’ve still got.”
The veteran of the group is 33 year old Rico Roman. He lost his left leg the same way Sweeney and Schaus did. The only difference is Roman was serving in Iraq.
Rico Roman was part of a compelling series called “Rise,” sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance. It’s always been my belief that pictures are worth a thousand words- so please watch.
A Purple Heart and an Olympic gold medal. I have two words for these true heroes.
Note: If you want to see past and present “Warriors” play some hockey, they are coming on April 9th to the Tsongas Center in Lowell. The military vets will be facing some familiar Team USA Olympians, including Mark and Scott Fusco, Brian Leetch, Tara Mounsey, Courtney Kennedy, and more. Tickets are $8.00 and proceeds will benefit the Travis Roy Foundation and the One Fund Boston. For more information go to www.americanheroeshockeychallenge.com.