When Christi Pulley received the email from Jim Beam telling her that the essay she had written about her husband, Anthony, had won them a VIP Experience with the White Sox as part of the Salute Soldiers with the Spirit of America contest, she didn't believe it: "I thought it was spam email."
After spending time with both of them, however, it is easy to see how Anthony was selected. They each exhibit the selfless service, bravery and Army Pride the contest is designed to find. Anthony, 28, served his first tour of duty in Iraq after being called up from the National Guard. He then chose to go on active duty with the Army - knowing full well that decision would result in more time in Iraq. He served two more tours in Iraq. He's currently stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Unfortunately, Anthony's neck was injured during a training exercise, necessitating spinal fusion surgery. He also has an injury to his lower back. All told, he's had three surgeries and is certain to have more in the future. He walks with a cane and, while he doesn't complain, the constant pain he experiences is obvious.
Christi is a committed advocate not only for her husband but for all soldiers, particularly for those soldiers who don't have the familial support network Anthony does. For example, the Pulleys recently took in a soldier visiting their base for medical care who otherwise would have been sleeping in his car to save money.
Christi observed that it was not easy to adhere to the 250 word limit for her essay - a blog post isn't going to do them justice, either.
In any event, we spend a lot of time on here alternately criticizing and praising the management and the players for what the White Sox do during games. We rarely spend much time on what they do in the community.
While Jim Beam footed the bill for the first class travel and accommodations and the tickets to their eponymous club, the White Sox did their part to make this a truly memorable experience for Anthony and Christi, including the opportunity to watch batting practice from the field. While they missed many of the starters who had already completed batting practice, a steady stream of players stopped by to talk to Anthony and sign the personalized jersey and ball provided to him by the team (Christi, as you can tell from the photo, preferred to keep her jersey "clean").
Listing all the players would take too long - though I'll note that I'm still surprised each time I meet Brent Lillibridge that he has a deep voice - but two players should be mentioned, Scott Linebrink and John Danks, both of whom spent considerable time talking to both Anthony and Christi and thanking them. As some of you already know, those two - along with Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle - lead the White Sox' work with the military.
After batting practice, we headed up to the Jim Beam Club to partake in their fine food and drinks. Christine O'Reilly, Director of Community Relations, also came by to provide a "goodie bag", including a signed photo of John Danks with a personalized message for one their sons, who is an avid baseball player.
Anthony had one more experience to take in, recognition on the field as the "Hero of the Game". But when the Chevy Pride Crew ladies arrived in the Jim Beam Club to escort Anthony to the field, they couldn't find him because we weren't in our seats. Amusingly, they searched out Christine O'Reilly and asked her "Where's your hero?"
We should all ask ourselves that question from time to time and, when we find the answer, thank them for all that they've done. If you're looking for a way to help veterans, consider Operation Homefront.