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The Military Order of the Purple Heart

For Immediate Release

Washington DC - April 25, 2011


The Military Order of the Purple Heart is proud to support the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST) as they begin their national tour with three games in the Washington, DC region.

This amazing and inspiring team, the brainchild of David Van Sleet, an employee of the Southwest Region of the Department of  Veterans’ Affairs, recently returned from “spring training” in Tucson, as the guests of the University of Arizona, made possible through a special congressional grant.  For 6 months, Van Sleet searched the country on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs, looking for 20 of the most active, athletic and competitive amputee soldiers/veterans with high school/college baseball or softball experience.  Amazingly, he found exactly who he was looking for -- a couple of the players are still serving on active duty, while several other players are still undergoing amputation rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and are awaiting a medical discharge.  Still others have already been discharged from the military and are now veterans. Their ages range from 21 to 39 years old.  There are 4 who are arm amputees, 3 above the knee amputees, 11 below the knee amputees, 1 bilateral below knee amputee and 1 foot amputee.   In the words of Van Sleet, “I really think we are going to show the country that these guys got injured, had a limb amputated, were rehabilitated and can now do a remarkable, skilled physical activity.”

In December, 2010, Van Sleet and 3 of his players traveled to Louisville, KY to meet with “Louisville Slugger” company officials.  Following a tour of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, they were invited to select some of the company’s best softball products for the team’s use.  Louisville Slugger is now the team’s exclusive equipment sponsor, providing only their highest quality composite softball bats, softball gloves, batting gloves and player bat bags for use by each player on the team.  The clothing manufacturer, Under Armour, has also adopted the team, providing the players with all of their uniforms, work-out gear, sweats suits and shoes.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation (MOPHSF) will host a welcoming dinner for the team upon their arrival in Washington, DC Thursday evening for what promises to be a fun-filled weekend.   The team’s first official game will take place on Friday, May 6, 2011 when WWAST will play against a special team composed of FBI Agents assigned in the Washington DC area.  The game will be played at 7:00 PM at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Jim Blaylock, himself an amputee and President of the MOPHSF, will throw out the first pitch.  On Saturday, May 7, WWAST will play an exhibition game against many of the medical personnel at Walter Reed Medical Center who were instrumental in their amputation and rehabilitation treatment programs.   Finally, on Sunday, May 8, WWAST will compete at the Naval Support Activity in Annapolis, MD against the US Naval Academy Sailing Team.  Following the game, the sailing team will take the team sailing on the Chesapeake Bay in their racing sailboats.

For the future, the team is in talks with Louisville Slugger about bringing this team to play at Louisville Slugger Field (home of the Triple AAA Reds); they are expecting to play against United States Military Academy at West Point; and they hope to play against a combined New York City Police and Fire Department team to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.   The team also hopes to have two of their players entered in the MLB Celebrity Softball Game, held before the MLB All Star Game in July, one each on the American League and National League team.   Finally, the WWAST team hopes to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan on a USO Tour, to play in front of the troops serving overseas.

The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance.  Through the VAVS program, MOPH volunteers provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA sites and State Veterans Homes.

For information contact:
WWAST Manager & Coach, David Van Sleet, 802-777-7232
Email: woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam@gmail.com
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
Email: PublicRelations@Purpleheart.org
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