May 7, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Members of the University of Notre Dame baseball team had a rare and amazing opportunity this past Friday before the start of their series at the University of Maryland, as the Irish spent some time visiting American troops at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
A group of 20 players, coaches and staff made the trip over to the impressive medical center and hung out with soldiers and their families at the Wounded Warrior Care Center before taking a tour of the world-class rehabilitation center, where servicemen and women recover from injuries sustained during active stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was definitely one of the cooler experiences I have ever had, especially at Notre Dame,” said senior catcher and team co-captain Forrest Johnson. “It was great to go there and give back a little bit of our time in support of the huge and invaluable sacrifice that our troops make on a daily basis. Those men and women have supported our country and fought for us, suffering some of the worst injuries you can imagine, so we wanted to let them know that we are supporting them and are really appreciative of the freedoms we have in this country. The experience is definitely something I’ll remember forever.”
The visit was made possible by the Notre Dame Monogram Club and former Notre Dame football student manager and current brigadier general Col. Bryan P. Fenton (’87). Fenton, who was a director for three years (2011-14) with the Monogram Club Board of Directors, currently serves as an advisor for the board in addition to his duties as the deputy director of strategy, plans and policy in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.
As a student at Notre Dame in the mid-1980’s, Fenton served as the senior personal manager for head football coach Lou Holtz during the 1986 season. He graduated with a degree in marketing before getting a master’s degree in military arts and science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“The experience offered us a chance to put our lives in perspective and realize that the little things we complain about aren’t important in the grand scheme of things,” said freshman RHP Scott Tully. “Most importantly, it was great to go there and show our support for the troops and let them know that we really are appreciative of what they do.”
The facility the Irish visited – the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center - is about seven miles from Washington, D.C., and is named for former U.S. Army physician Walter Reed (1851-1902). Reed, who joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps as an assistant surgeon in the mid-1870’s, eventually headed up the staff that suggested and later confirmed that yellow fever was transmitted through a specific mosquito species rather than through direct contact. His work is often considered a cornerstone of biomedicine and epidemiology.
The current medical center is just the latest of three that have been named after the late Army physician. Walter Reed General Hospital was opened in 1909, seven years after Reed’s death. A new facility – the Walter Reed Army Medical Center – opened in 1977 and replaced the original hospital. In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Act closed the facility as well as the National Naval Medical Center and made way for all branches of the military to join together to have one medical center – the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which opened November 10, 2011.
“I’ve been coming to Maryland now for some time with BC and now here and going to the medical center is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “Our country has been in some state of war for over a decade now and those are the guys that are making it possible to be back here not worrying about anything much at all except winning baseball games. I wanted to be able to pay our respects for everything they do for us and the sacrifices they make … not only the warriors themselves, but their families and all their loved ones and friends. I thought it would be a good way for us to pay tribute to them. Like so much of this community outreach, I feel like the people that go end up getting more out of it than the people they are going to see do and I certainly feel that was the case this time.”
Like his team and staff members, Aoki was making his first visit to the facility and left very impressed.
“I thought the spirit of those men and women that are there was unbelievable,” said the fourth-year head coach. “Their ability to get through what they have gone through and have such a positive outlook was very inspiring.”
As the Irish (17-30, 4-20 ACC) finish final exams this week, they turn their attention to the weekend and their first true home series of the year at Frank Eck Stadium. No. 22 Clemson (29-19, 12-11 ACC) is the opponent and the series will give fans a chance to check out Notre Dame’s brand new artificial surface that was just completed this week. Friday’s lid lifter is set for 7:30 p.m., while Saturday’s contest will get underway at 2:05 p.m. and Sunday’s series finale at 12:05 p.m.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director