To help celebrate Veterans’ Day on Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in conjunction with the Mario Lemieux Foundation, welcomed 12 veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project and their families to watch Wednesday’s morning skate and attend the game against the Boston Bruins.
|Ray Shero talks with family members of the Wounded Warriors that visited during today's practice |
“When we were approached by the Mario Lemieux Foundation about this opportunity, it wasn’t a tough ticket to sell,” said Chris Long of “Wounded Warrior”, who helped coordinate the event. “We had no problem getting the guys together.”
In addition to watching practice, each veteran was given a Penguins game sweater complete with his name and the number one on the back. Following the morning skate, all 12 veterans were given a tour of CONSOL Energy Center – including a stop inside the Penguins locker room.
“This is a breathtaking experience,” veteran Mike Heller said. “It’s unfathomable to me that I would be able to be standing here in the middle of the Penguins locker room, just like it was amazing to be able to come here and watch the Penguins practice. This was truly a phenomenal experience.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
made the morning even more enjoyable when he took a few minutes to meet with each veteran and pose for a group picture in front of the Penguins logo in the middle of the locker room.WATCH VIDEO: Penguins Welcome Wounded Warrior Project Veterans
“I don’t know if I have a favorite part of the day, but it was sure nice to be able to talk to Sid,” Heller said. “That was just a great experience. He thanked all of us for coming. We appreciated that he took the time to come and see all of us and take that picture.”
Each of the veterans and their families will return for the game against the Bruins. During pregame and intermission ice cuts, six of them will ride the Zamboni.
Long said that events such as these are great because not only do they show the veterans how appreciative professional sports teams like the Penguins are of the dedication and sacrifices these men have given, but they also provide the chance for the veterans to get back together and catch up on things they have missed.
“Any time we get a chance to get them out and feel good about themselves, it’s always a good thing,” Long said. “These guys are ecstatic and giddy about this trust me.
“Everyone has their own lives going on when they come back. These types of things allow the guys to get back together. They can discuss any challenges they have, talk about getting a new job or graduating. It really brings them back together.”
The Penguins also are supporting the Mario Lemieux Foundation in the Foundation’s plans for an Austin’s Playroom at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. An online auction at www.mariolemieux.org
and texting campaign will provide funding for this new room supporting the families of "Wounded Warriors."
The Austin’s Warrior Playroom Project will be created in the Warrior Transition Unit at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and will be housed in “Tranquility Hall.”