With the help of his teammates, DeSean Jackson hosted another successful softball game in support of the Wounded Warrior program on Saturday in Bowie, Md.
When DeSean Jackson and his cousin Akili Cooper decided to create the Amputee Warrior Softball Classic four years ago, they envisioned pitting military veterans against NFL football players. But the game wasn't competitive at all. The Wounded Warriors team made easy work of the professional athletes, who looked out of their element on the diamond.
So recently, including Saturday night's game, which took place at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, Md., Jackson decided to mix the teams together. It made the games more competitive, sure, but it also made the nights more meaningful for both sides.
Team Jackson and Team Breeland squared off against each other in the 4th annual Amputee Warrior Softball Classic at Prince George's Stadium.
"It allows the guys to build some camaraderie," Cooper said. "Hanging out in the dugout, and that sort of thing."
"These guys are pretty good," Jackson said. "They have some very good talent and very good qualities and their mentality, they have the instinct to win. They don't take losing for anything nice. They're almost more competitive than us. I'm glad this year we split it up."
He and cornerback Bashaud Breeland were the respective captains and each took time during the night to chat with Warriors, all of whom had suffered an injury and amputation while serving overseas. In front of a nice crowd, who got to see Redskins such as Trent Williams, Su'a Cravens, Vernon Davis, Will Compton Jamison Crowder, Kedric Golston, Rashad Ross, Houston Bates and Nick Sundberg, the teams played nine innings on a shortened field after a home run derby.
Team Jackson defeated Team Breeland 16-15, thanks, of course, to a walk-off base hit by Jackson himself.
"It's really a blessing," Jackson said of hosting the event again. "They put on some great work in our community, making us safe, protecting our friend's lives. Some of them have some really bad, unfortunate injuries that they suffered in battle, in combat, and we just want to let them know that we support them, we appreciate them, all the hard work they do. Another thing is outreach into the community and having the community come and having parents come out and really feel like they can be connected to guys on our team, these vets, it's really a great cause."
Among the proceedings on the field, which was a mixed bag of competitiveness and silliness, many of the veterans there were happy to have an opportunity to display their athleticism, still present, instead of feeling stigmatized.
That's why Danielle Greene was happy to take part in the game. A U.S. Army specialist, she was deployed to Iraq in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade ripped off the bottom part of her left arm during a rooftop security check in Baghdad. During eight months of therapy with her non-dominant right arm, she learned to embrace the challenge and was grateful to be "walking on top of the soil."
She went on to obtain her master's degree in counseling and continues to give back to her alma mater Notre Dame, where she played basketball for four years. She holds the distinction of being the first female Wounded Warrior on the softball team.
"It means a lot," Greene said. "In the news I feel like veterans and military personnel, we get a bad rap from coming overseas and being diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety, the negative issues. But I think this organization puts a positive spin on people embracing the challenge and coming together and continuing to serve and bring this broader awareness to different communities. Our motto is 'life without a limb is limitless.' Our whole thing is to try and instill hope…It's about awareness, it's about helping the next generation out."
For punter Tress Way, who happened to score the winning run Saturday, the reason he continues to attend this event is his desire to give back in some small way, and to be reminded of these veterans' courage.
"Whenever we do the National Anthem, we're all standing there, getting ready for another game, but you realize this is these guys' lives, how serious they take it, just their respect for our country," Way said. "I don't know how you could not hang out with these guys for two or three minutes and gain all the respect in the world for them, so for me, that single moment that's unbelievable, just to see those guys and what they've put on the line for us so that we can come out here and be safe and play a softball game.
"They all thanked us for coming out," he said. "We should be the ones thanking them."