De Pere, WI -- There have been a lot of football games played in the Green Bay area over the last 90 or so years, but no team is more inspirational than the wounded warrior amputee team which came to town this past week and played at St. Norbert College.
Many were athletes in their day, a time when they first learned about sacrifice and teamwork, words which would come into total focus when they switched uniforms. Traits no longer applied to games on Friday nights, but to combat missions where teamwork now meant finding a way to bring your brothers and sisters back home.
"It was our honor to serve because of things like this, because of our freedoms here in America and all the support we have back home," said wounded warrior team member, BJ Ganem.
This was a night to rekindle those magical times in front of the hometown crowd. Granted their wounds have forced them to change their game somewhat, but in no way have robbed them of their passion or their competitive spirit.
John Maino asks, "Have you ever met a more appreciative bunch of people who absolutely never feel sorry for themselves like the wounded warriors?"
Derek Gagne, member of the wounded warriors responds, "Not even possible. These guys just never feel sorry for themselves, and they just keep striving for excellence and perfection."
"What kept you going the most Derek?" Maino asked.
He responded, "You see another guy, he may be down, you try to pick him up. I just look at it this way. God keeps us here for a reason. You just gotta keep fighting everyday."
At the game, NBC26 Sports Director Larry McCarren interviewed Bobby McCardle and asked, "You're from the Milwaukee area Bobby?"
"That's right," he responded.
McCarren asks, "And what branch of the service were you in?"
McCardle says, "The United States Marine Corps."
McCarren questions, "How is the process of going through that, getting adjusted to it? Because you guys move around really well."
It definitely takes time and you got to stay stubborn with your recovery, cause it doesn't happen overnight. It's a matter of years to really always improve day by day. You know, it's a new normal, and, just like, you know, with both legs as a kid, you gotta learn how to crawl, walk, run, you know. Same type of thing with the prosthetic legs," McCardle explains.
Fighters who don't look back with regret for what was taken, but with gratitude for what they now have.
McCardle says, "We were all blessed to be able to serve this country for one thing, and to be alive
is a bonus as well. After my injury, I got married and I have kids and what not. I'm truly blessed to be here. So, just with any life threatening injuries and what not, if you make it out of it, you really look at everything a lot differently."
Vets who not only refuse to dwell on their fate, but at times find ways to laugh in the face of their adversity.
Maino says to Dan Friend, "Congratulations. About 70 yards on the touchdown romp."
Friend responds, "Hey, it was nothing. I didn't feel a thing. Never once broke a sweat. I had wheels, what can I say?"
"You had some pretty good blocking in front of you," Maino says.
"That was outstanding blocking. I think these Packer veterans have lost it because that was their own play used against them," jokes Friend.
Volumes could be written on the pain and struggle these athletes have overcome just to get to this very spot, but again, that's in the past and that's not the current mission. Theirs is to move ahead in the most determined and humble of fashion even when asked for autographs.
"That's one of those things I don't think I'll ever get used to is when someone asks you for your autograph and what not. So it's quite flattering. It's almost like living in the athlete's shoes just for one day. It's really neat," McCardle said.
If you would like to help out one of the wounded warrior athletic teams, there will be the City Stadium Run for Veterans taking place in September. All the proceeds will go to the wounded warrior hockey team. That's right, they play every sport there is.