While this year's USSSA Military World Tournament was canceled on Saturday, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Team was able to squeeze in one game on Thursday night. Every member of the squad is a post 9/11 combat wounded amputee, and the team was created by David Van Sleet in 2010 to raise awareness of the sacrifices and resilience of the United States military, and thanks to his efforts, Van Sleet was honored by the Military Order of the Purple Heart in early August, being given the highest award, the George Washington Medallion of Merit.
"Very humbling. Honored," Van Sleet said of receiving the award. "I went to Arkansas last week in front of 400 Purple Heart recipients and received the award. I know we have something good here, and it's not just me, it's a team effort, and I was surprised. I was relatively surprised."
The George Washington Medallion of Merit is not awarded on a regular basis, and past recipients include Bob Hope, President Lyndon Johnson, and President George HW Bush.
Since the team's debut in Panama City Beach three years ago, they have come a long way, and the guys regularly give back to other amputees across the country, something they agree is one of their main priorities.
"I don't think it's common knowledge yet, but it's going to be," said first baseman Josh Wege. "It'll be a household name, like a favorite team that people are going to have. That's just because of the message we're spreading."
"We got the biggest game of our life coming up Monday night," said Van Sleet. "We're playing in Fenway Park against all of the first responders in the Boston Marathon attack. They're bringing in the amputee victims, so you can see what's happened in a short amount of time."