By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army North Public AffairsJanuary 23, 2017
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Jan. 19, 2017) -- Two major-league baseball players and a broadcaster visited with wounded troops Jan. 18 as the 2017 Houston Astros Caravan stopped at the Warrior and Family Support Center.
Pitcher Joe Musgrove and outfielder Tony Kemp autographed baseballs and posed for photos while broadcaster Todd Kalas mingled with wounded active-duty and retired service members and their families.
"These guys risk their lives every day for us, so for us to be able to come in and spend an hour with them means a lot to us," Musgrove said. "It's really special to see the joy in their eyes and in their hearts. It brings things back to reality for us."
Visiting with the troops opened Musgrove's eyes to wounds previously unseen.
"There are a lot of physical disabilities in here, but also the mental stuff is just as scary -- the bad dreams, the nightmares, all the stuff you have to try to remove from your life after you get out is unimaginable," said Musgrove, 24, a right-handed pitcher who went 4-4 last season.
Likewise, Kemp could not be complimentary enough for the troops.
"The first guy we met is struggling from PTSD," said Kemp, 25, an outfielder from Vanderbilt selected as the 2013 Southeastern Conference Baseball Player of the Year. "It sends chills down your spine to hear the things he's seen. It's just two different lifestyles. I couldn't even imagine putting myself in his shoes."
Army Master Sgt. Damon Watson, on the other hand, could imagine himself in the ballplayers' shoes. He said he played baseball from age 7 through high school and coached a girls' softball squad while stationed in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The left side of Watson's body later was paralyzed while he was serving in Afghanistan, leaving Watson in a wheelchair. His spirit, however, remains Army strong.
"It's too bad I can't get out of this chair right now and throw some balls at them," Watson said. "I'd probably strike them out."
On this day, Watson was content with an autographed baseball.
"For these guys to take time out of their busy schedule to spend time with us is great," Watson said. "Any time you can get folks to come out and spend time with the troops is always great."
The big leaguers echoed that sentiment.
"This puts things in perspective of life as a whole and the bigger picture of what other people do in their lives and how they serve our country, especially to see some of the people come in wounded and fresh out of surgery," Kemp said. "It's a blessing to see what great humans they are to go [serve in the military] and allow me to walk and go do things in this free country. I can't thank them enough."
"For us to be able to take an hour out of our day and come out here and spend some time with them and share stories is pretty special," Musgrove added.