Wounded veteran gets new leg

LEAGUE CITY, Texas -- The familiar click of a batting cage gate means Rick Wilk is home. He let the softballs fly Wednesday afternoon at Big League Dreams in League City.

"Out here generally just getting the feel every week," said Wilk.

But like so many things, that "feel" changed, when Wilk lost his leg while serving in the U.S. Army in 2010.

"I actually got hit by a drunk driver on base," Wilk explained.

It happened at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, right after he'd returned from a tour in Haiti.

Through his recovery, Wilk again turned to the game, joining the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team. They play around the country and hold an annual kids camp.

"We teach them how to play baseball and show them that hey, life's not over," Wilk said.

His skills with a bat just opened up a new opportunity. Wilk was chosen to play on the U.S. Disabled Baseball team and will travel to Japan in late October for an international tournament.

"It's the coolest thing in the world," said Wilk.

The prosthetic-making company Ossur is donating new state of the art legs for the whole team. The doctor is donating his time. Wilk said, "The only thing we need is the sockets from the VA."

That's the top piece that fits the prosthetic to the leg, it's the cheapest part.

But Wilk says when he called the Houston VA on Tuesday, "I was told in mid-August, that there's no way that I can even get a [prescription] for a socket for my leg by the end of October, for me to go represent the United States."

Frustrated, Wilk turned to posting on Facebook.

"The one time that I actually need something just simple from the VA, it turns out that they can't help me."

The message caught on fast, with friends and strangers passing it on and contacting the VA.

Wilk said, "Within two hours, apparently it had over 2,000 shares."

Then, Wednesday morning, Wilk says the VA called him to come in for an appointment next week. He's hopeful now he'll get the help he needs in time, but says other teammates across the country are having the same problems.

"What kind of messages are we sending to these families that says hey you're going to send your son or daughter to war," said Wilk. "But if they come back hurt, or catastrophically injured, we're not going to take care of them."

It's a painful question, but it won't keep Wilk from representing his country again, both on and off the diamond.

A spokesman for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston did not return KHOU11's calls for comment Wednesday.


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