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Jim Riggleman assists the Wounded Warrior program

A few months ago, a representative from the Wounded Warrior Project reached out to Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman about taping a public service announcement for the organization. Riggleman agreed under one condition: He wanted some of the wounded veterans to tape the PSA with him.

Today, Riggleman and four wounded veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project taped the ad in the Nationals dugout. The aim is to raise awareness for the program, which provides tangible support for the 37,000 severely wounded veterans who have returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The shoot took an hour. Riggleman read a script while standing with four wounded veterans. One of them was a female soldier from Fairfax - "because of my job, you get the story or the name," she said.

She had been in the Army for 22 months when she first went to Iraq as a combat medic. Two months into her time, her platoon came under small-arms fire. She hoisted a male soldier over her shoulder and carried him away from danger. As she sprinted, two discs in her back collapsed, her vertebrae smashed together. The next thing she remembers, she was in Texas, at a military hospital. She had broken her back.

Uncertainty gripped her. She had played basketball all her life, and being an athlete had become part of her identify. She needed a wheelchair. She wondered if she would walk again.

From her first day in Texas, Jason from the Wounded Warrior Project spoke with her every day, "sometimes about just nothing," she said. Civilian doctors and counselors helped her, too, but not like Jason.

"You don't have the same brotherhood, the same connection," she said. "It was the difference between crying all depressed every day and being encouraged."

In those first days after she returned home, the project helped her realize, "this isn't the end of life," she said. "It sounds cheesy, but it's a new beginning. And it really was." Today, she walks with a limp and plays basketball.

"I can't jump as high as I used to," she said.

Another of the soldiers was Ryan Lamke. He grew up in Bethesda and Fairfax. His deployment, with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines out Camp Lejune, to Fallujah coincided with the first season the Nationals played in Washington. His grandfather sent a Nationals cap, blue with the "DC" logo and a red brim.

Lamke had never seen the Nationals play, and he was a fan. He wore the hat on post every day, even in 130-degree heat. This afternoon, he wore his hat in the Nationals dugout and got it autographed by Riggleman.

Lamke became involved with the Wounded Warrior Project after returning home. He is the Coordinator of Warrior Outreach, and he works out of Walter Reed in Bethesda. He has helped hand out "transition bags" to wounded soldiers as soon as they land back in the country, and helped match up soldiers who suffered a similar injury for peer counseling.

"We help them achieve normalcy," Lamke said.

It is an undeniably great cause. This space is usually reserved for Nationals baseball, but the PSA shoot at Nationals Park offered a worthy diversion and a chance to promote awareness.

In that vein, it's also worth sharing information on another important cause the Nationals have become involved with. Every Sunday, the Nationals will give away tickets to military children and one of their friend as part of "Me and a Friend," a program designed to by the USO. The aim of the program is to help children with parents in the military make connections with their peers. They are trying to expand into sports teams and leagues, and the Nationals became the first organization to take part last Sunday.

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 6, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  Jim Riggleman  
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Comments

Thanks Riggs, it's a great project, glad to see the Nats involved

Posted by: rvrtis | July 6, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Hadn't heard of the "Me and a Friend" program. Glad to know the Nats can be a part of this. Helping young people who have moved around a bunch get settled and build relationships is a pretty cool thing if you ask me.

Posted by: ihatewalks | July 6, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Nice post Adam and good for Riggs. I also like that the Nats recognize our vets during the game, although I am not a fan of the "I'm Proud..." song ("and I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today"--easy to sing bub, difficult to do and these men and women did it, and you too could join up if you would be so glad to do that).

Posted by: NatsFly | July 6, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

quality guy who gives a damn about people...

Posted by: outrbnksm | July 6, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Nice job Mr. Riggleman. It humbles me to read about how the Nats are involved with these programs.

I, too, appreciate the recognition of our Vets during the 3rd inning and must add that Section 416 gets a bit misty-eyed during the applause. Please keep that up.

Posted by: summerandwinter | July 6, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Charlie and Dave had a nice interview with a USO guy talking about the "Me and a Friend" program. It is a terrific idea, and the Nationals should be very proud to be the first MLB team to participate.

Posted by: Baldino | July 6, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Great that they are doing that, and good for Riggs for his stipulation regarding filming.

btw, some local Wal-Marts are carrying special camo and solid green Ryan Zimmerman t-shirts and caps. I understand that some of the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior program. I recently picked up a camo shirt for myself and a solid forest green one for my hubby, as well as a khaki cap.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Great that they are doing that, and good for Riggs for his stipulation regarding filming.

btw, some local Wal-Marts are carrying special camo and solid green Ryan Zimmerman t-shirts and caps. I understand that some of the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior program. I recently picked up a camo shirt for myself and a solid forest green one for my hubby, as well as a khaki cap.

Here's a Baseball Digest piece on the program (includes pics of merchandise):

http://tinyurl.com/26rjwcq

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

uh, oops. Well, it was worth telling again. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Great piece. A small correction: "Soldiers" are only in the Army. So the Marine referenced isn't a soldier.

Posted by: jellbell15 | July 6, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Riggleman, another Frostburg State Univ grad, leading from the front.

Good job.

Posted by: Rocco3 | July 7, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

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