Softball toss no small feat for Army vet
DANVILLE — Nearly 11 years have passed since that awful day in Iraq, when the Humvee carrying Jason Wills was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades, sending shrapnel all through the left side of the Oakwood native's body, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and changing his life forever.
The doctors in Germany said he wouldn't make it. But he did.
Then the doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center said he'd be in a wheelchair. But he's not.
"My right side doesn't do much; it's kind of along for the ride. I limp a little. The whole right side of my body is weak from the brain injury," said Wills, 32, an Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient who now lives in Danville. In addition to physical rehabilitation, he had to re-learn to read, write and spell.
And throw a softball.
"I've been working on my throwing with my right arm, and I can say it's getting better. The nerves are not knowing when to really let go of that ball yet," said Wills, who is right-handed but has had to throw with his left.
He'll be slinging the ball around the field at Danville Stadium today when he joins the VETSports softball team for the 11th Bravest V. Finest event.
The three-game slow-pitch softball series features the veterans and teams from the Danville police and fire departments.
VETSports is a nationwide non-profit that helps veterans achieve better physical, mental and emotional health through sports, physical activity and community involvement. It will be the third year VETSports has a team in Bravest V. Finest, and the second year the team has invited Wills to join their roster for the day.
"I'm excited. I can't wait," he said. "It puts a smile on my face right now just thinking about it. It's amazing, the crowd that comes out. It's so much fun. It makes you forget about your injuries, that's for sure."
Today's event will honor veterans in another way as well. Event organizer Jason Dunavan, a Danville police officer, said all proceeds will go toward the future Middle East Conflicts War Memorial in the city.
Finest v. Bravest
What: Three-game charity softball series.
When: 5 p.m. today. Gates open at 3,
Where: Danville Stadium, 610 Highland Blvd.
Memorial to honor Mideast war vets
DANVILLE — Come Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — a group of local men and women who served their country hopes to dedicate a new memorial honoring Vermilion County residents who enlisted in all branches of the military since 1990.
Carl Carpenter, past commander of the American Legion Post 210 in Danville, came up with the idea two years ago. On the advice from veterans like himself, who served prior to 1990, he assembled a committee of men and women who had served since that year so they could help design it.
For the last two years, that committee has been working on the look of the Middle East Conflicts Memorial, which will reside at the northeast corner of Hazel and Williams streets in Danville. It will honor all veterans who served during Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Afghanistan conflict.
Carpenter said the memorial project has already received support from local businesses but the majority of the funds for construction will come from today's Bravest V.. Finest softball charity event.
He said three stones will comprise the centerpiece of the memorial. The first will depict a fallen soldier and the name of each branch of the military. The second will show equipment used by each branch of the service. The third will be of the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers.
Carpenter said 9-11 is the biggest reason many of the veterans of this era decided to serve in the military.
"I think this is very fitting for those men and women," he said.