Some of us went over to Walter Reed Medical Center today and talked to some of the vets there. It was all similar injuries — it was mostly from IEDs and stuff like that. The stories were so similar. We were telling them how most of the time you go into a hospital and you just want to get out, but those guys were in totally different spirits. They’re so thankful at what the doctors are doing and amazed at the work the staff has done on them and all their brothers in there. It was an eye opening experience, and it was good to see how well those guys are doing. They were in such great spirits and they’re happy to be alive. The ones we saw were doing real well.
You know they’re watching you on TV, and you want to make sure you’re giving everything you can because they don’t have the opportunity to do the same thing, especially in the situation they’re in right now. All of them were so thankful we came in. You feel guilty in a way. They’re sacrificing their lives and bodies out there for all of us. It’s sad that so many people have forgotten about them. I think more people need to open their eyes, especially people in our shoes who have some fame and notoriety, and they need to get down there and donate some of their time and see those guys and talk to them.
They were so happy to see us. One of the guys who was leading us around was tearing up towards the end. He was like, “You brought Chicago to me — I miss home. We thank you so much.” We felt guilty. We didn’t do anything — we’re just playing a game. You have to realize as a player how much your play and winning ballgames means to these guys, especially the troops overseas.
Who went? It was Dempster, “Bussy,” Heilman, Theriot, Koyie and Hoffpauir. We were there a couple hours at least. We just took our time in every room and hung out with the guys. They told us some stories about experiences over there and how they got hurt and stuff like that. They were really open. It was hard. They keep reminding you how happy they are to see you there — it gives them a break. They see their families all the time and they see a lot of the same faces. They really seemed to appreciate us stopping by.
I wear a bracelet in support of the troops. My buddy was over in Iraq three years ago, and he had a year stint there. He was able to get out of there scot-free. He’s older, and he’s doing recruiting stuff in San Antonio now. Ever since he went over, I’ve worn this. Sometimes it’ll break, so I have to order a couple more off the Internet. It’s something — I want them to know they’re always in my heart. Now I have a couple more faces to put the bracelet to.
A lot of them were Cubs fans. We met a Houston fan. They didn’t care. They were happy to see us. Otis put together some shirts and hats. It was kind of an unexpected thing. I just felt like going over there. It was a good thing — we were able to get them some signed balls. There were a couple guys who were huge Cubs fans and they had pennants on the doors and their parents had Cubs hats on and we took a lot of pictures. We had a great time.