DETROIT — Gary Thompson did something he never does. He put himself first.
On Friday, Gary — former weapons specialist in the U.S. Air Force — and his wife Shelley were defenseman Danny DeKeyser’s special guests for Military Appreciation Night.
“It means a lot to me,” Gary said. “I never usually want anything. I actually let someone else do something for me and it actually feels pretty good. I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time.”
Always putting others’ needs ahead of his own, Gary is a selfless man who is willing to extend a hand out to those in need. But when Gary found himself on the other end of the spectrum and in need of help, it was a difficult situation for him to cope with.
“Not well,” Shelley said when asked how her husband of 18 years was doing. “He’s always doing everything for other people. He needs to do more for himself.”
Gary, 53, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis shortly after his service overseas in the Air Force. A typically hereditary disease, Thompson’s family had no history of ulcerative colitis and that made his case unique. The disease can also be caused by rare parasites like those he may have come in contact with 25 years ago during his time in the service.
He said. “I got sick over in Saudi, I got sick over in a couple places and they could never pin point it.”
Still in the first stages of the disease, Gary takes more than 16 pills per day to treat the issue. Doctors have been unable to examine him due to complications with inflammation but he is scheduled for another appointment in December.
Gary and Shelley attended Friday’s game as part of DeKeyser’s Hometown Heroes charity ticket program. DeKeyser hosts one military member and one guest at each of the Red Wings’ home games but this one was particularly unique.
For the first time ever, the Wings wore camouflage practice jerseys during warm-ups in honor of servicemen and women. The uniforms will be auctioned off at DetroitRedWings.com/camojerseyauction and funds raised from the event will help support Help For Our Disabled Troops’ efforts to renovate the Thompson’s family room of their home in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. These efforts will allow him to comfortably recover from treatment and enjoy quality time with his family.
“I think our military is important to everybody around here,” DeKeyser said. “They do a lot for our country. It’s kind of nice when you can give back to them and give them a little something extra special.”