High school football stars, Army soldiers and wounded warriors from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, gathered at the Alamodome Jan. 5 for a punt, pass and kick event held in conjunction with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl taking place Saturday Jan. 6.
The game, in its 12th year, features high school football players from around the nation in an East versus West battle. The bowl also offers an opportunity for many of these players to announce where they will be playing college football.
"You meet a lot of amazing people out here. It’s more than you see on TV," Shane Callahan, a senior high school athlete playing on the East team, said.
At the punt, pass and kick event, seven different teams competed to see who would get the best score in the areas of kicking, punting and passing. The teams consisted of three to four All-American players, a wounded warrior and a soldier of the year.
At the event, wounded warriors and other soldiers had the opportunity to talk with the players and they answered questions from the young athletes about being in the military, being deployed and for some, being injured.
"It’s great to meet with them and answer all their questions because everyone always has questions, and that’s okay," Ashtan Wallace, a wounded warrior from Brooke Army Medical Center, said.
Wallace, a carpentry and masonry engineer, lost his leg to bone cancer in 2009, and then deployed as a partial leg amputee. After he broke four prosthetics, he was sent back to the states and was given an above the knee amputation and better prosthetics allowing for increased mobility and functionality.
"The civilian medical field is nowhere near as advanced as the military is here at [Brooke]," Wallace said. "The nice convenient thing is that we do our therapy on one floor, and two floors down they make our prosthetics. So they can fix it right there if things go wrong."
Wallace and other wounded warriors were able to relate to the athletes on many levels, and found unlikely commonalities when it came to sports.
Even though these wounded warriors are amputees, they still partake in many sports.
"I do wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball," Wallace said. "I still play flag football and softball. I’m still passionate about sports even though I’m an amputee."
"So many similarities," Callahan said. "We’re both warriors. We fight as a team, just like they do. You all have to pull together to reach your goals."
Callahan was also able to relate. His brother is a veteran of the Air Force.
"If I weren’t playing football, I’d definitely consider joining the Army," Callahan said.
Other than sports, the wounded warriors and athletes also found another common bond.
"The drive," Wallace said. "You want to be the best you can be and excel at everything you do. Whether its sports or the military you have to have goals and drive on when things get tough." (Editor’s note: This article is based on a story by Erika Wonn, Army Public Affairs.)