TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Captain Robert J. Silah, United States Navy, Retired, as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks. Silah, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will contribute the money to his charity of choice, Operation Helping Hand.
A United States Navy veteran who served at U.S. Central Command, Silah founded Operation Helping Hand over seven years ago as a project of the Tampa Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America. Operation Helping Hand is a humanitarian effort dedicated to providing support for United States military active duty personnel who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are currently being cared for in Tampa at the James A. Haley VA Hospital. Through the initiative, Silah and his colleagues have helped over 700 wounded soldiers and more than 1,000 of their family members.
Being a former member of the armed forces himself has allowed Silah to relate to each individual in need with a more hands-on approach. Frequently, Silah will voluntarily visit those being comforted in the VA Hospital's Spinal Cord Injury Center, and enjoys providing care to countless mothers, fathers, wives and other loved ones of injured soldiers. He often organizes many of the monthly dinners at the Hospital to honor these heroes and their families, providing them each with flowers and gift baskets. He recently has just begun instituting welcome kits that are handed out to the wounded and their families upon their arrival at the Hospital.
Through Silah's assistance, patients and their families have been taken to Rays baseball games, and within the past year, to see a Lightning hockey game from one of the brand new luxury suites at the renovated Tampa Bay Times Forum, where they enjoyed meals and beverages and even received a special visit from 2004 Lightning Stanley Cup Champion Dave Andreychuk. Overall, Silah has helped so many exceptional war heroes in just a short time that it makes him an exceptional hero as well.