BROWARD (CBSMiami) – An important and highly anticipated football game was played in South Florida on Wednesday night. It was far from the Super Bowl but it had just as much relevance for the participants.
The Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team took on a team of former NFL players at Nova High School in Davie. The festivities began when the Wounded Warriors team arrived to a cheering crowd chanting “USA, USA” and waving American flags.
The outpouring touched Wounded Warrior Henry Diaz.
“I was kind of a little teary eyed,” Diaz said.
Some of the Wounded Warriors walked on prosthetic legs while others were missing limbs. They sacrificed their bodies to serve our country. Suiting up for the annual pre-Super Bowl football game against a team of NFL alumni is a highlight of their year.
“It’s just good old fashioned American fun,” said Wounded Warrior BJ Ganem.
Ganem lost a leg in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq in 2004.
“I’m missing a leg, some people are missing fingers, head injuries, mental health issues,” he said. “The only way we can find our way through it is to work together and this game kind of revitalizes that.”
Ganem said the mission for the Wounded Warriors team is simple.
“I think it’s important to show people what we can still do even when we have challenges that present themselves like disabilities,” he said.
The NFL alumni team included a bunch of former Miami Dolphins including OJ McDuffie and Sage Rosenfels. McDuffie said it was an honor to play in the game.
“These people laid it on the line for us and we get to come out here and hang with them. I love it,” he said. “We give them a breath of levity, quick little moment to not think about all the seriousness that’s going on in life and have some fun and what better way to do that than play some football.”
The game featured lots of touchdowns, laterals and interceptions. But most of all, it was fun. The Warriors won but the outcome wasn’t the story. The story was the courage of the men and woman who dedicated their lives to serving our country. Henry Diaz, from Hollywood, served in Vietnam and was wounded. He hopes the community sees him as a person not a wounded vet.
“Sometimes before they look at you they look at your leg or your arm instead of looking at eye,” Diaz said.
The event raised money and recognized many in our community like families of the victims of the Parkland shooting, including Debbie Hixon and her family. Hixon’s husband, Chris, was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Chris served in the military for more than two decades.
“I look for distractions on a daily basis to be able to move forward and I’m sure they feel very similar to that,” she said.
For the Warriors, the game gave them a chance to help one another heal and to deal with some of the inevitable challenges that they face.
“It’s not about the woes and the struggles,” Ganem said. “It’s about how we overcome and how we’re thriving now.”