Archive for June, 2013
“Inspirational,” said many in the crowd. “Amazing” was also a common sentiment. And some of the spectators were even heard to whisper: “Life-changing.” The event, dubbed the First Annual NFL Players vs. Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Classic, took place on Saturday night, 1 June, at Prince George’s Stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles’ Class AA Eastern League affiliate Bowie Baysox, in suburban Maryland.
The field had been modified to softball specifications, with the pitcher’s mound closer to home plate, the bases closer to each other than the big-league configuration of the Baysox infield, and the home-run fence brought in just a bit closer to home. Make no mistake, though. To hit one out of this park still required a prodigious blow, several of which were witnessed on this hot and humid night.
Billed as a chance “to showcase how technology is making prosthetic limbs better and is improving the quality of life for limb-loss veterans and to raise money for Wounded Warrior organizations,” the game pitted a group of volunteer players from the National Football League against wounded warriors from across the country who lost extremities during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.
Fittingly, the event sponsor was Medical Center Orthotics and Prosthetics, which provides lower-limb prosthetics for Walter Reed Military Medical Center like the ones making it possible for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team to compete. Besides the team, beneficiaries from this fundraiser—which was aiming to raise $50,000—were the Yellow Ribbon Fund and the Wounded Warriors Project.
Among the football pros in attendance were co-hosts DeSean Jackson, two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan. Others on the team were fan-favorite Torrey Smith, wide receiver for the 2013 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, other members of the Ravens, Redskins, and Eagles, along with players from the New York Giants, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, and Detroit Lions.
But even though a throng of fans were enticed here with promises of autographs from celebrity athletes, the real stars this night were the wounded warriors, who ended up signing nearly as many baseballs, footballs, softballs, photos, and posters as the people who play sports for a living.
Seated behind a printed sign that read “Kyle Earl” was a U.S. Marine from Kalamazoo, Michigan. The diminutive young man shook hands with his admirers with his left hand. His right forearm had been amputated after the Humvee he was driving in al Anbar Province, Iraq, succumbed to an improvised explosive device. Through his night-vision goggles, he noticed a bump in the road and immediately determined it was an IED. But rather than avoid it, he drove directly over it so that the Humvee behind him would not hit the device with Earl’s unit commander on board.
So, how does one play softball without a hand? “I swing with one arm,” he said. “No big deal.” Sure enough, Lance Corporal Earl, the team’s fleet-footed right fielder, steadies the bat handle with his right stump (he does have a prosthetic hand he’s learning to master) and swings cleanly with his left arm, making solid contact with the ball almost every time.
Manuel Del Rio’s sign at the autograph table mistakenly labeled him as having served in the U.S. Army. When the San Ramon, California, resident was seated, he immediately took out his pen and crossed out “Army” and inserted “Navy.” Seaman Del Rio had been serving on board the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in support of the war on terrorism, when a mishap on the carrier’s flight deck pinned him under an aircraft, trapping him for 20 minutes. The incident caused him to lose much of his right leg.
Did he ever in his wildest dreams think he’d be sitting across a table from a long line of people wanting his autograph? “No, never,” he said. After surveying the young men behind the table it was evident that the members of this group are not interested in attracting attention for their softball prowess. “We just want to show people what the possibilities are, even when you’re faced with challenges like this,” Del Rio stressed.
The action started soon after Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson threw out the first pitch. Clearly, the NFL stars realized they should keep their day jobs in their professed sport, especially after the shellacking they took in the seven-inning game. The Wounded Warrior team won, 21-5, in a contest that was limited to a maximum of five runs per half-inning. But this was all about so much more than softball. Everyone in the stadium—including wounded-warrior spectators maneuvering up and down the stadium steps—held high hopes that, with the financial and moral backing of the American people, these brave veterans are also winning the game of life.
As this week’s addition to the USNI Blog series in the run up to the release of LCDR BJ Armstrong’s book “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era” we are republishing this post from USNI NEWS. First published July 7th of last year, it remains a relevant discussion today. The potential for negative impacts from globalization was the subject of ADM James Stavridis’s oped “The Dark Side of Globalization” in the Washington Post on Sunday, and it reminds us of the dangers that Mahan saw in an interconnected world.
“It seems demonstrable, therefore, that as commerce is the engrossing and predominant interest of the world to day… The instrument for the maintenance of policy directed upon these objects is the Navy.”
– CAPT Alfred Thayer Mahan
Much of today’s discussion of international relations is based around the core idea that globalization has radically changed the political landscape of the world. Today’s thinkers, writers, and strategists tell us that because the world is flat, and we are closer to each other than ever before, we are in uncharted seas. In 2011 LCDR Matt Harper suggested in an award winning article in the pages of Proceedings that the economic ties between China and the United States, the “WALMART factor,” made military conflict almost impossible. Recently the discussion has once again been taken up in the pages of Proceedings. In the April issue LCDR Rachel Gosnell and 2LT Michael Orzetti wrote a piece suggesting that great power conflict was still something that should be planned for in the twenty-first century. LT Doug Robb responded in May with his Now Hear This…, “Why the Age of Great Power Conflict is Over.” He made a familiar case familiar to readers of the writing of Tom Friedman today or the idealism of Norman Angell, early in the last century.
Both articles suggest that this is a new question and the question is a new challenge to be tackled. The dawn of the twenty-first century, however, is not the first time that the world has dealt with globalization. Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote about it in a number of his essays at the turn of the last century. In 1905 he published “Considerations Governing the Dispositions of Navies,” which opened with what he called “an antecedent appreciation of the political, commercial, and military exigencies of the state.” He felt that before he discussed how and where naval forces should be deployed it was important to first talk about the condition and political state of the world because the use and deployment of a fleet in peacetime should be done in anticipation of the needs of war. ATM believed that any military policy had to be in tune with political and economic realities. This opening discussion centers around what readers in the twenty-first century recognize as globalization.
The adoption of steam power, transatlantic telegraph cables, and wireless telegraph technology had dramatically shortened the connections around the world. This created a global economic and political system that ATM called “an articulated whole.” He foresaw that as commerce and economic considerations increased in their power, there would be a desire to maintain the global status quo for reasons of economic power. The economic, political and military power of a nation, according to ATM, was all intertwined and he wrote, “This is the more necessary to observe, because, while commerce thus on the one hand deters from war, on the other hand it engenders conflict, fostering ambitions and strifes which tend towards armed conflict.”
In other writings ATM warned that “civilizations on different planes of material prosperity and progress, with different spiritual ideals, and with very different political capacities, are fast closing together.” He saw the rise of new powers in Asia as a source of future conflict. When the rising powers and the great powers come into commercial and economic competition ATM saw it as a recipe for the development of armed conflict. With economic conflict leading to potential political conflict, which would lead to military conflict, he believed that America required a solid strategy based in naval strength. Why? Because, “it seems demonstrable, therefore, that as commerce is the engrossing and predominant interest of the world today, so, in consequence of its acquired expansion, oversea commerce, oversea political acquisition, and maritime commercial routes are now the primary objects of external policy among nations. The instrument for the maintenance of policy directed upon these objects is the Navy.”
There is a common tendency for us to look at our challenges and strategic questions as new, with more complexity, or wickedness, or whatever other new adjective we can think of, than ever before. However, history and the strategic thinking of the past frequently helps us develop the right approaches to those questions, or can provide realistic starting points for debate and research. Reading and studying ATM, who addressed globalization in his thinking and writing, can help add to our modern discussion, debate, and strategy formulation.
Join us for Midrats on Sunday, 2 June 13 at 5pm Eastern U.S.for Episode 178: USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS: Operation PRAYING MANTIS:
Narrow seas, unseen mines, punitive expeditions, and “come as you are” ASUW on the sea and in the air.
Yes, it has been a quarter-century, but little has changed since the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) struck a mine, and in retribution, the US Navy launched Operation PRAYING MANTIS.
The tactical and operational aspects of each, as well as combat leadership, remain constant even while the tools may have changed a bit.
To discuss this an more, our guest for the full hour will be BRAD PENIST0N, author of No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf, recently released by the Naval Institute Press in paperback and on Kindle.
Listen live or listen later by clicking here.