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USO, Nationals Celebrate Wounded Warriors, Families

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2010 – Like many combat-injured servicemembers, Army Pfc. Matthew Castillo del Muro has found comfort in family and support.

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Wounded warriors and military family members raise their hats during a special salute to troops at the Washington Nationals-San Francisco Giants game in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2010. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden

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Organizations such as the USO, Microsoft Corp. and the Washington Nationals have helped the airborne infantryman’s recovery in ways he never expected, he said.

“The USO is great,” Castillo del Muro said today at Nationals Park here. “All of the groups really go out of their way to make [wounded warriors] feel appreciated.”

Castillo del Muro was one of 200 wounded warriors, active duty military and military family members honored at the Nationals game today against the San Francisco Giants. The celebration was part of USO of Metropolitan Washington and Microsoft’s 4th Annual Salute to the Troops.

Castillo del Muro is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. He lost his lower right leg to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on June 6. Although he endured almost a year of patrolling Afghanistan’s rigid terrain with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, the 22-year-old is learning that recovering from his injuries may be his biggest challenge.

“It’s tough, but events like this and support from my family really makes a positive difference,” he said.

The troops and their families started the day with a VIP welcome from the Nationals. The Nationals rolled out the red carpet, literally, as their guests enjoyed food and drinks at the ballpark’s rooftop party deck before the game.

Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, lauded the organizations for their support. He acknowledged each of the groups for their steadfast and continued commitment to troops and their families.

“This is an event that happens only once a year,” Chiarelli said. “Their support of our soldiers, all of our soldiers -- our wounded warriors, our soldiers who are deployed -- it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Nationals’ games, in particular, have become known for paying tribute to the military community, he noted. Such recognition goes a long way for military families and children who are dealing with deployed loved ones, he added.

“It means so much to the kids, that they know their parents are doing something special, and their country supports them,” he said.

“We’ve become Nationals fans, even though those of us in the military have teams back home that we support,” the general continued. “You can’t turn on a Nationals game or come out to the ballpark without seeing someone from the military being recognized."

Today, several wounded warriors were out on the field to meet players. One lucky troop even got to hand off the team line up card to the head umpire. The troops also were recognized in the third inning with a special salute on the big-screen monitor in centerfield. Troops waved their hats, smiling proudly, as the stadium roared with cheering fans.

“This is pretty amazing,” Army Sgt. Matt Lavoir said. “Events like this go a long way in the healing process.”

Lavoir, 23, also is recovering at Walter Reed. He was injured by a roadside bomb in September 2008 in Iraq, and has only partial use of his right arm, he said. He’s participated in more than 20 USO-sponsored events while in rehabilitation here, he said proudly.

“I can’t say enough good things about USO and what they do for us,” the infantryman said. “USO and events like this are a huge help to all of us in uniform. Their events are a big pick-me-up, getting us out of our rooms and trying to live life again.”

Curt Kolcun, Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. Public Sector, and Elaine Rogers, USO-Metro president, said it’s an honor for their organizations to reach out in support of the military.

“We’re honored by the sacrifice the troops and families make every day for us,” Kolcun said. “This is just a way for us to recognize and give back to those who’ve given so much.”

“This is all of us, our way of really saying to our active duty military and their families, we really appreciate what you’re doing for our country,” Rogers added. “It doesn’t get much better than a special day like today.”

Although the Nationals fell behind early, and were down 5-0 in the top of the seventh, they sparked a late-game comeback. The Nats scored two runs, but left the bases loaded going into the eighth. The Giants closed the game 6-2.

However, it wasn’t a total loss, Lavoir attested.

“It’s a great day for baseball, and it was a great tribute to our military,” he said


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Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli

Related Sites:
USO of Metropolitan Washington

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Video: "Washington Nationals, USO, Microsoft Corp. Salute Wounded Warriors, Military Families"

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Sgt. Matt Lavoir, an infantryman recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., finds his seat during a Washington Nationals-San Francisco Giants game at Nationals Stadium, July 11, 2010. Lavoir was one of 200 wounded warriors, servicemembers and military family members who participated in a special salute to the military sponsored by the Nationals, Microsoft and USO of Metropolitan Washington. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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