As Mike Jernigan emerged through a portal from one of the darkened hallways onto Tropicana Field, his senses were aroused by a mix of lasting baseball memories and eruption of bright colors.
“You never forget the colors of green grass, red clay, and white lines,” the Marine Corps veteran said.
Although blinded by an improvised explosive device 13 years ago during combat, Mike said a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) outing to a Tampa Bay Rays-Miami Marlins game allowed him to relive some of the best moments of his life – including the vivid colors.
“I was sighted for 25 years, so I still remember everything in color,” he said. “They are just as bright now as they used to be.”
WWP program events like this give wounded warriors an opportunity to experience firsthand what is possible at social gatherings that get them out of the house and connect them with fellow service members and their communities.
“Going to see the Rays helped me get out of the house and be with other warriors,” Mike said. “Sometimes you can be a little isolated, and you lose connection. Wounded Warrior Project brings us all back together.”
The ball game was a relaxed setting where veterans and their families shared experiences, created new memories, and learned about how WWP programs can heal their bodies and minds.
Attending the game and connecting with fellow warriors became another important – and necessary – step in the healing process for Army veteran William Pontes.
“During my first tour, I made three silent promises to myself while I was sitting on the roof of an old Iraqi building,” William said. “One of them was to see more baseball. When I got home, I realized large crowds made it nearly impossible to see the game I love. Because of the programs and therapy I got from Wounded Warrior Project, I can enjoy ball games again.
“Wounded Warrior Project helped me get my life back – and fulfill the promises I made to myself.”