By Elaine WilsonMarch 28, 2007
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The San Antonio Spurs may occasionally get fouled on the court, but there was nothing foul about what the three-time NBA champs were dishing out March 20 at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center.
Spurs players Brent Barry, Jacque Vaughn, Matt Bonner and Francisco Elson; Head Coach Gregg Popovich; and Spurs owner, Peter Holt, took time out from a successful basketball season to serve up barbecue to wounded warriors and their families at an outdoor event sponsored by the Y.O. Ranch.
"Having the opportunity to serve those who serve us was not a hard choice to make," said Spurs guard Barry, who heaped pinto beans onto already full plates.
"It's an honor to serve those who serve," said Popovich, who handed out the main entrAfAe, venison sausages. "It's important for us to let them know they are appreciated."
After they doled out the food, the Spurs sat and talked with the wounded warriors and their families, posed for photographs and signed autographs on everything from hats to basketballs.
A self-proclaimed "huge fan," Marine Staff Sgt. Marty Martinez said the Spurs are a class act, both on and off the court. "The Spurs are always welcome here," said Martinez, a San Marcos, Texas, native. "I admire them, not just for their basketball skills, but for the great leadership in the organization."
While the Spurs may have stolen the limelight, the true celebrities of the day were the wounded warriors who supplied the venison that served more than 100 wounded warriors and families. The meat was the result of a December hunting trip to the 40,000-acre Y.O. Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas.
George Sistrunk, Y.O. Ranch employee and board member for the Exotic Wildlife Association, thought of the idea for the hunting excursion after he experienced firsthand the pain of a severe injury.
"I was in a bulldozer accident at the ranch; I slid into a brush fire," he said. Sistrunk was sent to the Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center to recover from third-degree burns. He took one look around him and said he immediately felt "guilty about being there."
Wasting no time, "At our next association board meeting, I said we needed to do something," he said. "They said go ahead and do it."
Sistrunk coordinated the trip that produced such bountiful results.
"It was my first outing out of the hospital," said Sgt. 1st Class Greg Stube, a Special Forces medic who was burned from the backs of his knees to the middle of his back in Afghanistan. "It motivated me to get out of the wheelchair.
"These guys really taught me about my capabilities instead of my disabilities," said the Tennessee native, referring to the Y.O. Ranch employees. "I realized I can still do a whole lot, more than I even thought I could do before.
"The hunting was the smallest part of the trip. It was a chance to get together with Texans, Americans, with a high value for freedom."
Holt also joined the excursion and quickly agreed to help when Y.O. manager Eric White asked if the Spurs could come to the upcoming barbecue, which was the second one Y.O. has sponsored.
"It was an obvious thing to do," said Holt, an Army veteran who earned a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart in the Vietnam War. "'Pop' and I are both vets. We are dedicated to supporting our troops."
The Y.O. Ranch saved the meat for the SFAC barbecue, which was just "something that ought to be done," said Charles Shriner, Y.O. manager and owner. "It's our thank you to the Soldiers."