As part of the NBA’s Hoops for Troops Week, last Friday the Wizards hosted 40 local veterans and active military personnel from both the Wounded Warriors Project and members of the Amputee Clinic Leadership Program and their family members at their annual Wizards Care, Salute to the Stars Luncheon.
The group spent the morning teaming up with the Red Cross to make hundreds of comfort kits for victims of the recent hurricanes. John Wall, Tim Frazier, Scott Brooks, and Ernie Grunfeld spent time with military personnel to help make the packages, while also taking pictures and signing autographs for the servicemen and servicewomen and their families.
Frazier, a Houston native, felt a personal connection to this act of kindness, as his hometown was one of the cities devastated by the natural disaster.
“When I heard we’re giving back to make packages for my hometown of Houston, I was all for it. We have the military personnel, everyone is packaging and it means a lot for us, it means a lot to me, for my family and friends back home that have lost so much, it means a lot just to be able to give back and be a part of something special like this.”
After the packaging, the group was moved upstairs for lunch, where they were greeted by Marcin Gortat, who has always been one of the team’s most active supporters of the military. Gortat has spent a lot of time meeting with both U.S. troops and military members of his native Poland, and it’s something he is very passionate about.
Gortat made sure to stop at every table to say hello and pay his respect to the military members attending the lunch, while also taking pictures with the families and listening to their stories.
The most entertaining part of the event was saved for last, as the group moved back downstairs to the practice court where they were invited to watch a live Wizards practice. After they watched the team practice from the side railings, the entire group was invited down onto the court, where Brooks welcomed them to practice and thanked them for their service. The team then set up a free-throw contest, which ended up drawing more laughs than competitiveness, and let much of the group attempt a free-throw with the Wizards circled around watching. They then wrapped up the day by hanging out on the practice court with the Wizards, taking pictures, getting autographs, and sharing their personal stories with their favorite NBA players.
While often times the players are the ones looked up to as heroes, on this day it was clear the real heroes were not wearing Wizards’ uniforms, but they were the guests of the event, the men and women of the armed forces who have sacrificed so much for the country.
John Wall: “It was great to have the vets here today, it’s an honor to be able to see them and tell them how we appreciate everything they do for us and our country, laying the foundation and giving us our freedom.”
Bradley Beal: “They sacrificed their lives for the benefit of the country, it’s kind of a no brainier to be able to show your love and support back to them, it kind of humbles you in a sense, it puts everything into perspective.”
Scott Brooks: “It’s an honor and a privilege for them to be here, they do so much for us, all of us are thankful, everything they give to our country, it’s great to be a part of this.”