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    Wounded Warriors play ball with NFL champ

    Wounded Warriors play ball with NFL champ

    Photo By Cpl. Harley Thomas | Marines with the Wounded Warrior Battalion West-Detachment Hawaii pose for a photo...... read more read more



    Story by Lance Cpl. Harley Thomas 

    Marine Corps Base Hawaii

    MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — How many people can say they would turn down the chance to hold $36,500 worth of diamonds and white gold in their hands? How about the largest Super Bowl ring in history? Sgt. Christopher Gaither, a Baltimore native, happens to be one of those people — turning down the chance to wear the ring of a New England Patriots Super Bowl champion.

    “I’ll be honest, I’m a Ravens fan,” joked Gaither, a Marine recovering with the Wounded Warrior Battalion West-Detachment Hawaii. “But when the Patriots’ player came, we still joked around and took a picture together. He offered to let me wear his Super Bowl ring, but I told him I couldn’t because I’d probably be disowned by friends and family back home — I let him hold onto that ring.”

    Service members with the Wounded Warrior Detachment were visited by Michael Hoomanawanui, a Super Bowl champion and starting tight end with the New England Patriots, and participated in a game of wheelchair basketball at the Semper Fit Center gym aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, July 16, 2015.

    The purpose of Hoomanawanui’s visit was to connect with and learn more about the Marines and Sailors aboard MCB Hawaii. Gaither said it’s nice getting to meet and laugh with someone who supports the things you do, all team preferences aside.

    “When it comes to meeting athletes, it really doesn’t matter what team they’re on,” Gaither said. “It matters what their personality is like. It’s good to see humble people who have made it big and still come back to pay their respects to the community or service members who put their lives on the line — not because they were told to, but out of the kindness of their heart. It was nice to play with somebody of that caliber.”

    “When someone gives back to the military like that and comes to just spend time with us, it means more than simply coming to sign autographs,” Gaither said. “While some people may care about that, I think most of us don’t — for us, it’s about getting to know one another. Sure, a picture may last a lifetime, but meeting someone of that caliber who is genuine means more to me than anything else. It’s important to see somebody that people look up to — someone kids strive to become — who is humble, genuine, good and gives back to the community, not because they want to stay in the spotlight, but because that’s who they are.”

    Hoomanawanui, a Bloomington, Ill., native, said he has enjoyed getting to see the camaraderie in what the Marines do on a day-to-day basis.

    “It’s been a blast getting to know these guys, from all different backgrounds and walks of life,” Hoomanawanui said. “Age, race, sex — it doesn’t matter because everyone is working toward one common goal, like a football team. However, while our goal is to win a game, their goal is to defend our country, which makes ours seem miniscule in comparison.”

    Hoomanawanui said the Marines’ task is daunting, and he is glad he can help bring them joy on Sunday afternoons when they’re fighting for something bigger.

    “To see what these wounded warriors and their families have given up to protect our freedom is incredible and very humbling,” he said. “They allow us to play our games because they are out playing with their lives every single day — we may bring them joy, but little do they know, they give us so much more in return. Seeing what they have done, lost or gone through shows us that we can’t have any complaints.”

    Hoomanawanui said the least he can do for the service members was come hang out and play a pick-up game with them.

    “It’s something small on my end, but I hope it’s as rewarding for them as it was for me,” he said. “I just want to say ‘Thank you,’ and that’s all I really can say — I know it’s small, but I hope it goes a long way. They should know we appreciate them for everything they do for us each and every day, and we hold them very near and dear to our hearts. Some of them might look up to us, but they are the true heroes and patriots, and, in reality, we are the ones looking up to them.”



    Date Taken: 07.16.2015
    Date Posted: 07.25.2015 18:12
    Story ID: 171064

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