You never know what is going to influence your writing on a given night. I’ve got to admit, something that happened at halftime of Louisville’s blowout loss to Notre Dame had an effect on mine.
Notre Dame was honoring the military last night. A trip to visit troops in the Middle East with “Operation Hardwood” left a deep impression on Irish coach Mike Brey, so much so that he took his team to visit Walter Reed Military Hospital in January.
At halftime last night, Notre Dame introduced four veterans: Staff Sargent Dillon Behr, Staff Sargent Freddie De Los Santos, Lance Corporal Anthony Villarreal and Staff Sergeant Leroy Petry.
As they were introduced, one walked out, skin grafted to most of his face, waving with a prosthetic arm, another with a prosthetic arm, one struggling on crutches, it was a moving moment.
Halftime of a night game is a time when reporters are usually banging out their stories, or the beginnings of them, on deadline. There weren’t many on press row that weren’t standing with everybody else last night.
I did a little digging.
Behr, a communications specialist in the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Afghanistan, was awarded the Silver Star. According to the Army, Behr held his position under heavy fire during an ambish last May in Afghanistan, despite being shot in the arm and receiving a second critical wound. In a six-hour struggle, he continued to fight and take out many combatants, until he no longer could physically hold his weapon. The Army’s commendation reads, “His tremendous courage and selfless devotion to his fellow soldiers inspired his unit to continue to fight against overwhelming odds until relief arrived.” He is on track to make a full recovery and return to active duty.
Petry, an Army Ranger, lost his right arm when he picked up a Taliban grenade to hurl it away from his team.
There’s less information on the others. Villarreal, a 23-year-old Infantry Marine, served two full tours of duty in Iraq and was injured last June during a third tour, this time in Afghanistan. De Los Santos was injured in Afghanistan last October.
So, you return from that to writing about a basketball blowout, and it’s hard to view things the same way. The basketball game, understandably, is a big deal in Louisville, and I tried to treat it as such. But you can’t help but feel a little differently about it after watching an event like that.
Brey and Notre Dame are to be commended for taking time to do that.