Miller said he was happy to help out precisely because those organizing the outings didn’t want any recognition for their efforts. Aside from Sanchez, who served in the Marines and spent time in the hospital himself, nobody involved in the program was part of the military, and that added a level of sincerity in Miller’s eyes.
Since then, he and dozens of others have been able to experience the best that Nationals Park has to offer. Wounded Warriors was held six times this season with 19 people attending each time, and all involved described the soldiers’ excitement.
“It’s an incredible program — those men and women come to the game, sit in the Presidents Club and get the wonderful buffet that comes with it, and they are recognized at the end of the third inning,” said Israel Negron, the Nationals’ community relations director. “Our fans give them a standing ovation every game. The umpires know what’s going on and they applaud, and Pudge and our catchers stop what they’re doing and they applaud, too,” he said, referring to the Nats’ starting catcher, Ivan Rodriguez.
“We couldn’t believe everything that was involved in having those presidential seats. We thought it was just going to be, ‘Come and sit down, and here’s a hot dog or a pretzel and you’re done,’” Miller said. “We sat down and were like, ‘Look at this!’”
As D.C.-area sports fans know, this has been another tough year for the Nationals. The team went 1-5 in games the soldiers attended, and Washington has been out of playoff contention for months.
But the scores of the games hardly matter. Sanchez said families of injured soldiers often tell him how happy and relaxed the veterans look, and that’s what Wounded Warriors was always about: just a night at the ballpark, a break from 23 hours of boredom.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.