From today's Enquirer:
[I bolded some of the paragraphs of interest in regards of getting stuff for GAC after his home was destroyed - makes what the Reds did even more welcome.]
Hurt soldier gets signed ball
Bengals' Palmer wastes no time brightening Army man's day
BY MARK CURNUTTE | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Carson Palmer completed a long-distance pass Wednesday that has brightened the holiday for a wounded soldier recuperating in Washington, D.C.
Last week, the Bengals quarterback signed an official NFL football that had been used in practice. There was still mud in the seams.
Wednesday, Dan Hess, a 16-year-old Finneytown High School sophomore, gave the ball to his stepbrother at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington.
Army Spec. Jason Westbrook had been wounded in the arm and neck on Nov. 4 near Kamdesh, Afghanistan.
"Awesome, just awesome," Westbrook said Wednesday when he opened the box that Dan and Dan's father, Joe Hess, had brought from Cincinnati. Joe Hess is married to Jason's mother, Cindy.
"It makes you feel good that (Palmer) took the time for one person," Westbrook said.
Although the Bengals were able to respond to family members who wanted a special gift for Westbrook, professional teams struggle to accommodate the volume of requests for memorabilia and autographs they receive on a weekly basis.
They hear from fans, families with sick children and families who have loved ones serving in the military.
On average, the Bengals get an estimated 75 donation requests a week for autographs and memorabilia. The Cincinnati Reds receive 200 to 300 such requests a week during the offseason and up to 500 a week during the season.
"As you can imagine, we get many individual requests but tons from schools, churches, nonprofit groups," said Lorrie Platt, Reds community relations manager.
Club officials say they do their best to honor as many worthy requests as possible, but the large numbers make it impossible to satisfy everyone or to verify the legitimacy of all solicitations.
"The supplies of footballs and player availability to sign them are limited," Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan said. "We try to fill as many requests as we can. We're glad this particular person got a ball."
Neither the Reds nor Bengals track how many requests come from military families, but the Reds do have a complimentary ticket program for active-duty military personnel. Ultimately, there are no promises. But sometimes, such as in the case of Westbrook, there is a happy ending.
HURT ON 'BAIT MISSION'
Amy Hess, Joe's ex-wife and Dan's mother, thought of the idea to try to get a ball or other memorabilia from the Bengals. They are Jason's favorite team, and Palmer is his favorite player.
Jason and other soldiers in Afghanistan would get NFL scores from an Army radio operator in an outpost atop a 7,800-foot mountain. Amy had already bought and sent Jason a Palmer replica jersey earlier this month.
"I've only worn it once," Jason said of the black No. 9 shirt. "My hand is pretty messed up. I don't want to get blood on it."
In her pursuit of a Palmer autograph, Amy contacted The Enquirer, which forwarded her request to the Bengals. Brennan responded immediately. He took the ball to Palmer, who quickly fulfilled the request.
"You sign a bunch of balls and a bunch of things for charities and people, so memorabilia to me doesn't mean as much - you scribble your name on a $40 football - but when you hear what it means to a person, it makes you feel good," Palmer said Wednesday when told how much his autograph meant to Jason.
Jason, part of the 10th Mountain Calvary Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., was positioned as the gunner atop his vehicle on what he called a "bait mission. Our job is to go into an area before anyone else does," he said in a phone interview from Walter Reed.
A rocket-propelled grenade exploded in front of the truck. Then they were hit with small-arms fire. A bullet tore into his right hand. Shrapnel ripped into his neck. Their vehicle flipped over.
Medical teams took Jason to a field hospital, where an orthopedic surgeon was able to save the hand by clipping nerves atop the wrist and attaching Jason's groin muscle to the back of the hand. Then he was flown to Germany before returning Nov. 7 to the States.
A HERO AND ROLE MODEL
Stepbrother Dan went to Washington with his father and stepmother, as well as Jason's wife, Tiffany.
Amy Hess lives in Finneytown with son Dan. Joe and Cindy live in Lexington, where Joe is a 19-year member of the Lexington Police Department.
"We are thankful on this Thanksgiving that Jason is home, but we don't want to forget the ones who are still over there, especially after what we have seen the last two weeks up at Walter Reed - the heroes who are up there, sacrificing limbs," Joe Hess said.
When Dan visited his stepbrother earlier this month, he came home and tearfully told his mom, "I was about the only person in there with all my limbs."
Dan and Jason have been close since they were first introduced nine years ago.
They both were only children. There have been boating and fishing trips. There have been long talks into the night.
"Jason is a real hero. He's a great role model," Dan said. "He's my hero."
Jason will undergo surgery Tuesday to determine whether the hand can be saved. The hand was attached to surgically exposed blood vessels in his lower abdomen to try to improve the chances of its survival.
When he gets home to the Lexington area, Jason plans to go back to school and pursue a career in emergency medicine.
For now, there's a Thanksgiving dinner to eat, football to watch and blessings to count.
"I'm thankful for my wife and family," Jason said from his bed. "I'm thankful for my mother. I'm thankful for Danny, Amy and Joe. Thanksgiving will be a little different this year. I'm lucky I made it through the contact."