HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The enemy may have taken their limbs, but they'll never take their hearts.
The national Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, wearing about $2 Million worth of prosthetics, have swapped the battlefield for the softball field.
"Everything I do revolves around having two feet," recalled Team Captain and Active Duty Army Sergeant Matt Kinsey shortly after losing his right leg to an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan. "And I never thought, I'd be doing this."
The 14 member team has been traveling nationwide since they started over a year and a half ago. Four members of the team demonstrated their skills this morning during a practice session at Millican Field at Joint Base Pearl Harbor / Hickam. It's the 37th city they've visited.
The WWAST returns to Oahu January 5 - 12, 2013 to play military teams at several bases, thanks to a partnership with the Amateur Softball Association of America Hawaii Chapter (ASA).
"We're half Army, half Marines, half Iraq, half Afghanistan," said Head Coach and General Manager Dave Van Sleet. "And we only play able bodied teams." Van Sleet, an Army veteran, spent his life's work helping veterans with prosthetics working for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He helped found the non-profit team.
"I think when they initially show up and see us, they're like awww...poor guys, feel sorry for them," said Kinsey. "But we get loosened up and by second or third inning they forget that we're missing body parts.
Twenty-seven year old Kinsey, an Army paratrooper with the 182nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, is also a former college baseball player, but says nothing compares to the camaraderie on this team.
"I've played baseball all my life, and I've played on several teams and to be a part of this team is one of the biggest honors of my life," said Kinsey.
They get about 12 inquiries from around the country a day, asking them to play in someone's city or town.
"They're going to play 75 to 100 games probably this year," said Coach Van Sleet. "They're booked till 2014. It's amazing."
All former athletes, the team is all medically retired except for Kinsey, and they aren't slowing down. They get a 'second' chance to be athletes and still serve their country, by inspiring hope.
"It's not just wounded soldiers that were injured in the war," said former Army Paratrooper Corporal Nick Clark who plays Left Field with a prosthetic left leg. "Its a kid who's born with a debilitation or missing an arm or a leg or whatever, and they come out and see us play and they're able to take from that, and get motivated and go on with their lives. Because there's nothing you can't do."
The team includes veterans who's playing with a variety of post 9/11 amputations of the arm, above knee, below knee, bilateral below knee and foot
"All of us have been in their shoes," said Kinsey sending a message to current wounded warriors recovering at a hospital now. "Keep pushing, keep fighting. You never give up hope."
The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team will play five games on Oahu January 5 - 12, 2013 at various locations including Joint Base Pearl Harbor/ Hickam and Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The schedule will eventually be posted on their website.
Team officials say if you'd like to get involved in helping the team contact Tom Plant at (256) 698-1356 or via email at woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org.
The WWAST has been featured in national sports media on ESPN with Rick Reilly, HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, and Sports Illustrated.
For more information on WWAST - wwast.org or at Facebook at Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team.