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The Pittsburgh Penguins Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

While in Columbus watching the USA Warriors Hockey team, CPL Jeffrey Laursen introduced my dad to the team coordinator, Lori.  

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After sharing a little about our mission, she told us about Army SGT Rob Easley, one of the players on the team, who was a die hard Penguins fan that wanted to attend the Wednesday night Blackhawks Vs Penguins game in Pittsburgh.

We knew SGT Easley was a HUGE fan because we had the opportunity to host him a few years ago & he drove 4 hours from Walter Reed to attend the game! 

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We told Lori we would do our best to surprise Sgt Easley with tickets to the game & reached out to our friend George.  George reached out to his contact at the Penguins & they generously offered tickets to SGT Easley for the game!  

Needless to say, Rob was excited for the opportunity!  He brought his Brother & dad with him to the game. The Penguins went above and beyond by providing tickets in the exclusive Lexus Club!  

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Unfortunately for Rob & the Penguins, they fell behind 4-0 in the first period! They eventually fell to the Blackhawks, losing by the score of 5-1.

Despite the score, Sgt Easley had a great time & got to enjoy some good family time together.  

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Operation Warrior Wishes would like to send a special thank you to George for getting the ball rolling and to Bob and Jimmy at the Penguins for helping us make this Warrior Wish come true!    

TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

Most importantly, We want to thank Sgt Easley for his service and sacrifices to our country – it was great to see him up on his prosthetics this time, after attending in his wheelchair a couple yrs ago!  Thank you for never giving up & being an inspiration Rob!

SEE SGT EASLEY’S STORY HERE

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The Pittsburgh Penguins Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

After making wishes come true at the Cavaliers game in Cleveland, my dad jumped on an overnight bus to Pittsburgh for the 2nd game of our mini NBA/NHL tour.

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He arrived in the “steel city” at around 5am.  He says “The Pittsburgh Greyhound station is one of the best in the country.”  mainly because it is new and has a great location.

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As the sun rose, the city of Pittsburgh started moving. My dad made his way over to the Marriott City Center hotel to thank Morris and his staff for providing accommodations for SGT Kevin Gatson, our guest for the evening.  

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The hotel was conveniently located right across the street from the PPG Paint Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

 Sgt Gatson was not going to arrive until 4pm, so my dad met up with Mike from Mr G’s Sauce, our tailgate sponsor for Steeler games.  He took my dad on a little tour of Pittsburgh, including a stop at the old Pirates stadium, Forbes Field. He also gave my dad a little history lesson on the steel industry.

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My dad also hoped to meet up with Marine Brandon Rumbaugh, who was our very first Steelers guest in 2012.  Unfortunately, He lives about 40 minutes away & was bartending to raise money for a local military charity.  Brandon is very inspirational young man who does a lot of speaking to kids and veterans.  He is also a huge advocate for homeless veterans. It would have been great to catch up with him.  

Snow began to fall around 3:30 which caused some traffic on the roads & caused Kevin to be a little late.  As he arrived at the Marriott, the staff was there waiting to greet him & thanked him for his service. They surprised him a welcome package in his room.  SGT Gatson was impressed with the warm welcome.

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SGT Kevin Gatson was on patrol in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan on July 12, 2010, when he and other troops had to climb a wall in their way. Two teams of soldiers made it over, and Gatson, the first man from the third unit, was just about to clear the barrier when the man ahead of him stepped on a pressure plate and a bomb buried in the wall exploded.  The blast took Gatson’s left leg, left index finger, and his left thumb.  His right leg was nearly destroyed as well. For more than a month after he made it back to Walter Reed, he had major or minor surgeries three days a week, rotating from the operating room to the intensive care unit and back again, he said. He doesn’t know how many operations he underwent.

Sgt. Kevin Gatson spent three and a half years recovering at Walter Reed & now plays sled hockey with the USA Warriors Hockey team! He never gives up & is a true inspiration!

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“I don’t feel like I have limitations,” Gatson says. “I feel anything I want to do, I’m able to do. All it takes is me saying I’m going to go do it.”

We have had the pleasure of meeting Kevin in the past, but have never had the opportunity to host him before. We recently treated the USA Warriors hockey team to lunch when they were in Chicago earlier this year.

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SGT Gatson is a huge Pittsburgh sports fan.  He even has a custom Pittsburgh Steelers prosthetic leg! 

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This was SGT Gatson’s first Penguins game in Pittsburgh.  He has seen them play in DC before.  Needless to say, he was excited for the opportunity to see his team play on home ice.  

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My dad walked SGT Gatson & his friend over to the stadium and snapped a few pictures in front of the stadium before escorting them inside.  They got a green commemorative Penguins T-Shirt since it was St Patrick’s Day. 

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My dad hung around the stadium for a little bit to thank Cathy and the Penguins for helping make us continue to make warrior wishes come true at Penguins games.  

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He himself did not have a ticket to the game & hoped to find a scalper to sell him a reasonably priced ticket. Unfortunately, he was not able to get one so just after game started,my dad headed Back to Marriott to watch game.  While walking back a guy sold him a snow soaked ticket that looked like he picked it up off the ground for $10!  Skeptical about the legitimacy of the ticket, my dad bought it & surprisingly it was actually a valid seat!  

It worked out perfectly & gave my dad the opportunity to spend a little more time to hang out with SGT Gatson. 

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The game itself was very entertaining. with 5 goals scored in first period, the Penguins had a 3-2 lead and went on to win the game 6-4. A great time was had by all!

Operation Warrior wishes would like to thank Cathy and the Pittsburgh Penguins for their continued support throughout the years.  We would also like to thank Buford’s Kitchen for providing a pregame meal, The Marriott City Center for providing accommodations for SGT Gatson & New Era Cap for providing brand new Penguins Caps!  

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

Most importantly, we would like to thank SGT Gatson for his service & sacrifices.  

My dad left the game a few minutes early in order to catch his 10:30pm overnight bus to New York.  He will be in the Big Apple tomorrow to make warrior wishes come true at the Islanders game! Stay tuned for more details.  

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            Don’t forget to Nominate a Warrior for an upcoming game on our 2017 Battlefields to Ballfields Mission

Click on the schedule to learn more about the mission & nominate your hero.

2017 Battlefields To Ballfields Schedule

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The Pittsburgh Penguins Honor Heroes & Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

After a day full of “Steel City” surprises, we got a great night sleep at a hotel.  It was the first time in almost a week since my dad slept in a bed.  Feeling refreshed, my Dad & I were up early to host Army SGT Josh Furlong AKA “Furdiddy” at tours of PNC Park & Heinz Field.

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SGT Furlong served 13 years in the Army.  A few of Josh’s friends never made it home & when Josh returned home from deployment to Afghanistan, he struggled with PTSD and ended up homeless, in jail, and even attempted to end his life.  Today Josh has turned his life around and has become an advocate and mentor to help Warriors that are dealing with similar issues.

Josh presented us with an American flag at PNC park that was flown on a mission while he was serving in Afghanistan.  It was an amazing surprise and something that will proudly be displayed!

We had originally planned to make Warrior Wishes come true at the pirates game tonight but when we heard there was rain in the forecast & a Penguins playoff game being played down the road, we reached out to The Penguins to see if they could help us make a few warrior wishes come true.

See how the Penguins made warrior wishes come true in 2014!

Julie from the Penguins went above & beyond to help and donated her 2 tickets to help us honor SGT Furlong & Army SGT Rob Easley at game 3 of Penguins playoff series with the Rangers.

SGT Easley, is one of the biggest Penguins fans in the world.  We learned about the donated tickets about 5 hours before the puck dropped.  When we called Rob to invite him to join us, he made no hesitation & immediately jumped in a car with his wife to drive over 3 hours from Walter Reed in Bethesda, MD to attend the game!

ARMY SGT ROB EASLEY

SGT Easley joined the Army with a friend.  He had plans to join Special Forces.  On June 4th, 2008 3 members of Rob’s 8-person team were killed in action.

Once he returned home from his first deployment, Rob made the decision to deepen his skills & endured yearlong training to be an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Technician.

In January 2012 Easley deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On October 15, 2012, Rob’s 3-man team was called to disarm two discovered IED’s.  Rob stepped on a third undiscovered IED, which instantly exploded.  The blast resulted in the amputation of both legs, and partial amputations of fingers on his right hand.

Rob hasn’t let his traumatic injuries keep him down.  Thanks to the great people at Walter Reed & his never give up attitude, determination & support from family & friends, especially his wife, Megan, Rob was up on prosthetics legs quickly. Rob says his wife Is the most important person in his life.

Today Rob continues to rehab at Walter Reed.  He enjoys playing wheelchair rugby & plays for theUSA Warriors Sled hockey team.  He is a Pittsburgh native & as I mentioned before, the biggest Penguins fan we have ever met!

Operation Warrior Wishes is honored to host these brave heroes at the Penguins game.  We would like to thank Julie & the Pittsburgh Penguins for helping us make these #WarriorWishes come true! The Penguins even gave SGT Easley & SGT Furlong recognition for their service at the game by putting a message on the scoreboard!   We would also like to thank our friend George in Pittsburgh for securing a ticket for SGT Easley’s wife and letting my dad crash at your place tonight.

 My dad will be back on the bus first thing in the morning and heading to Philadelphia to make warrior wishes come true at our 22nd game in the last 20 days on our #BattlefieldsToBallfields Mission.

This was our 21st game of making Wishes come true in 19 days.  Learn more about ourBattlefields to Ballfields MissionNominate Your Hero for an upcoming gameGet involvedMake a Donation & Buy Warrior Wishes gear at http://warriorwishes.org/