By Justin Phillips/America Press
The space may have been a little tight on the deck of the USS Orleck Saturday morning, but that was okay. Most of the crowd in attendance just wanted a chance to rub elbows with some of the bravest athletes in the country. Under a canopy, members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team chatted with strangers and laughed with friends at a private breakfast held in the team's honor.
A round of speakers addressed the team as the breakfast began to wind down. The plan for the morning was to go through the presentations, then tour the museum before eventually making it out to the bow. From there, the players would have a makeshift home run derby in front of the Mount 51, the forward 5-inch, 38-caliber guns. Nearby boats would come pick the softballs out of the surf.
Susan Hafner of One Touch Awakening was the first speaker introduced. One Touch Awakening is an organization that sends pillows to troops all over the world. Thousands have been sent to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Most of you, especially our veterans, know that our government does not issue a pillow when you go to war. Our organization and on behalf of the USS Orleck and Mayor Randy Roach's Armed Forces Committee and One Touch Awakening, we're going to present you with a One Touch pillow," Hafner said. She went on to mention how 6,000 pillows have gone to soldiers overseas. The pillows the Wounded Warriors were receiving were monogrammed with the phrase "One Touch from God is greater than all the world can offer. "We know if we don't have that spiritual inspiration, then we're just beating our heads against the wall," Hafner said. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, spoke to the team after Hafner. Before getting into his presentation, he thanked the athletes for their service. "Thank you guys for everything you do. Everything you've done and everything that you're doing," Kleckley said. "You're a very important part of this country, very important part of our lives and a very important part of Louisiana."
He went on to read a resolution passed during the 2014 Louisiana Legislative session that recognized the military history of the USS Orleck. The resolution also designated the Orleck as the Official Vietnam Memorial Museum for the state of Louisiana. Mayor Randy Roach talked to the crowd and joked a bit about Friday night's game where he took a few bumps and bruises. He went on to reference a conversation that took place earlier in the event about the country's current political climate and the ability for citizens to have different opinions on what their government is doing. "I don't know if you caught what was said a minute ago about what's going on now and mixed emotions. It's America, and we talk about mixed emotions as if it's a given," Roach said. "Not every country can do that. The reason we can do that is because of the men and women like you that serve and sacrifice and continue to do that."
A section of the proclamation addressed the Wounded Warriors directly, stating that each individual act "continues to demonstrate to everyone that hears or sees what you're doing that Life without a limb is limitless." Roach also presented the team with a key to the City of Lake Charles. He told the players that the key wasn't just symbolic, it had a specific purpose. "The key unlocks the heart of the people that feel what I just expressed to you," Roach said to the team.
After the presentations, the athletes were led around the USS Orleck, getting to see all of the areas not roped off. Some of the players managed to find their way out to the bow early to get a couple of swings in on the home run derby. After a few slips and a several line drives straight into the waves, the players found their strides, lifting a few shots over the boats waiting out in the water.