Warrior takes fight to the softball field

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alex Echols
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
From the foxhole to the dugout, a medically retired U. S. Marine is spreading awareness and hope with softball.

Lance Cpl. Josh Wege lost both of his legs below the knee during a deployment in 2009. The next year, he joined the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. He visited Tyndall to view an F-22 Raptor August 14 while traveling with the team to Panama City for the United States Specialty Sports Association Military World Softball Tournament.

"It's to spread a message that nothing is going to stop us. We're always going to be out there," said Mr. Wege. "It shows the esprit de corps and faithfulness. I'm not just representing myself. I'm representing something bigger than myself."Wege travels around the country with the WWAST playing softball at least two weekends a month out of the year. Their only stipulation is that the team they play must be fully able bodied.

"The [team's] mission is to raise awareness, through exhibition and celebrity softball games, of the sacrifices and resilience of our military, and highlights their ability to rise above any challenge. Our goal is to show other amputees and the general population, that these athletes through extensive rehabilitation and training are able to express their desires and perform the sport they loved," according to the WWAST website.

Wege joined the Marines in 2008 after graduating high school. In 2009, he deployed to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

"I was on a routine vehicle patrol to a local market to resupply the Afghan National police that we were training," Mr. Wege said. "We were rolling out in light armored vehicles and just happen to roll over a 200 pound bomb. We were the last vehicle in the convoy. It blew right through the gas tank then it took both of my legs below the knee."

The bomb exploded on October 4 2009. Wege spent the next eight months in recovery and physical therapy, most of which took place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

"I stood up exactly a month and a half after I got hurt," said Wege. "So they gave me my prosthetics and took the sutures out. At about two and a half months, I ditched the crutches. From there, every day I picked up a little bit more."

By the sixth month, the bones in his legs had begun to grow back in an unnatural way, and Wege underwent surgery to remove it.

"There are the dark days, when you hit that emotional wall," Wege said. "I think I hit mine three times, but each time I did, I had my family there to lean back on. It makes a difference when you get your prosthetics, and you get down to the workout center because it's not just you down there. You have fellow Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and sailors down there that are missing limbs. It is my competitive nature, but when I first went down there I picked out some guys that were like me, and I told myself, 'I am going to beat that guy.'"

While he was at Walter Reed, a recruiter approached Wege and offered him a spot on the WWAST.

"I was like, 'Yeah I'm in. Sign me up!'" said Wege.

Mr. Wege became number 23 and has fielded almost every position on the diamond. To him, softball is more than just a sport. It was one of the driving forces in his recovery, he said.
"Softball has definitely filled in some pieces," Wege said. "I don't think I would've felt 100 percent recovered if I hadn't gotten back into sports. It's not good enough to just get up and walk and wear pants and look normal. I want to actually compete, and it's something to focus on and get better at. I treat it like a full-time job." It also helps him stay resilient and focused, he said. Even when he is not on the field, Wege strives to improve his technique by working out and practicing heavily.

"I always have to set goals for myself," said Wege. "It doesn't matter how high the goal is or how farfetched it seems. It will keep you going. Maybe it comes from my competitive nature."
Through it all, Wege remains proud of his past and optimistic about his future.

"I fully believe that all the decisions you make in life mold you into what you are," Wege said. "I can look back and honestly say I am proud of who I am. People ask me if I would do it all over again, and I say yes in a heartbeat. I don't regret a single thing because it has made me who I am, and I am a stronger person for it."

Editor's note: The United States Specialty Sports Association Military World Softball Tournament was canceled due to adverse weather conditions. Officials have no plans to reschedule.