Sticks for soldiers
Two severely-wounded US Army soldiers have been named the honorees and beneficiaries for this years’ eighth annual Sticks For Soldiers Thanksgiving Charity Lacrosse Tournament, which will be hosted by the Fairfield Ludlowe High School boys lacrosse program on Saturday, Nov. 30.
US Army Captain Benjamin Harrow and US Army Specialist Sean Pesce both sustained life-changing injuries from separate incidents in Afghanistan in May and October of 2012, respectively.
Sticks for Soldiers is a non-profit charity with its mission to raise money to support future needs of severely- wounded soldiers, and promote youth awareness of their service through the tournament.
It is organized and hosted by volunteers of the Fairfield Ludlowe High School lacrosse team. Held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it is the players who give thanks to these servicemen and women.
This year, more than 850 high school athletes — both boys and girls teams — are expected to participate, representing more than 58 teams and playing over 110 games during the one-day event.
The officials of both boys and girls field lacrosse also donate their time towards this worthy cause.
Team entry fees and other fund-raising activities, including private donations, contribute towards the charity support.
Captain Harrow, 32, is a 2005 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Originally from Great Neck, Long Island, he was a four-year letterman with Army lacrosse.
Following Infantry Basic School, then Ranger School, Harrow went on to the Special Forces Qualification “Q” Course and earned the coveted Green Beret Special Forces tab.
He became a Special Forces Commander for two years. During his second tour in Afghanistan in May, 2012, he was severely wounded after stepping on a mine while leading a foot patrol that resulted in amputation of both of his legs above the knee and severe damage to his right arm. He has earned three Bronze stars and a Purple Heart. He remains positive, is relentless and focused on his rehab and his family, and thinks of the men in his unit often. Harrow is married to his wife Gina and they have a two-year-old son Peyton. They are currently living in Rockville, Maryland while he continues to undergoing therapy at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
Specialist Pesce, 21 years old, is a 2011 graduate of West Haven High.
Upon graduation, he enlisted in the US Army and completed the rigorous Ranger training, the Army’s elite mobile force. On Oct. 12, 2012, while clearing buildings, Pesce was shot 13 times in a close-range fire-fight with Afghan insurgents that killed his sergeant.
He sustained major injuries and blood loss through his body: he lost his spleen, a kidney, and shattered his vertebrae that also damaged his spinal cord.
Pesce is paralyzed from the waist down and has been recovering from numerous surgeries, rodding and spinal fusion, first at Walter Reed, then Tampa VA Center, and finally at Mass VA hospital.
He received a Purple Heart for his combat injuries while at Walter Reed, and was awarded a Bronze star.
Now living in a apartment in Massachusetts, he plans to come home to his family in West Haven once his parents’ home can be modified for his needs.
Donations may also be sent, payable to “Sticks for Soldiers, Inc.”, PO Box 475, Fairfield, Conn. 06824.
For more information, honoree profiles, tournament schedules, location and history, please see sticksforsoldiers.org.