NCAA coaches visit wounded warriors in military hospital

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap
  • 931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs
Henry Bautista wasn't one of the U.S. servicemembers seven NCAA football coaches visited at a U.S. military hospital in Germany May 29, because servicemembers are not the only ones risking their lives in dangerous places like Iraq. 

Mr. Bautista, a field representative for a light armored vehicle contractor in Iraq, was injured May 26 when a vehicle mishap almost severed his leg.

The doctors at the hospital pieced his ankle back together, but his tibia is still broken. He needs more surgery.

Meanwhile, his family is back in Roy, Wash., on the other side of the world. Confinement to a military hospital bed can make home feel so far away.

That's where Coaches Tour 2009 comes in. It's a morale-boosting mission that brings NCAA coaches to U.S. servicemembers. For men and women serving overseas, the tour doesn't just bring them icons of college football. It brings them a little piece of home.

"It lifts your spirits," Mr. Bautista said after four coaches -- Mack Brown of the University Texas, Rick Neuheisel of UCLA, Houston Nutt of Ole Miss, and Coach Emeritus Tommy Tuberville -- stopped to see him. "They have other things they could be doing other than visiting me."

Three more coaches -- Air Force Coach Troy Calhoun, Jim Grobe of Wake Forest and Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel -- came in a little later. They also talked to an Army Soldier who lay in a bed opposite Mr. Bautista, also with a bad leg wound.

"I've been parachuting all over the world for 23 years," said the Soldier who chose to remain anonymous.

"Twenty-three years?" Coach Tressel responded.

The young-looking Soldier looked like his 23rd birthday could have been a recent memory.

"I'm 45 years old," he told them. "I take care of myself."

The three coaches looked at each other in amazement.

Before they left, they said what they all came to say on Coaches Tour: Thank you for what you do for your country.

Then they told him to get better and to get back to parachuting.

"No," he said, vaguely looking at his heavily bandaged leg. "I'm done jumping."

The coaches will next visit troops in Turkey and Iraq. The Coaches Tour, which started May 28 at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., is organized by Morale Entertainment, LLC., in association with Armed Forces Entertainment.