Local boxer Andre Ward visits Palo Alto VA hospital

July 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
East Bay boxing champion Andre Ward has survived some tough battles, but he knows they're nothing compared to the ones fought by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He heard their stories first-hand Tuesday when he visited the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto.

For Ward, the undefeated boxing super middle weight champion of the world, this was his reality check.

"It's an eye opener. It's humbling," said Ward.

He went to the hospital to say thank you to people like Army Sgt. Christopher Montera, who was hit by a rocket propelled grenade and badly burned.

"I sincerely appreciate and thank you for everything that you've done," Ward said to Montera.

There were soldiers who could talk, but could not walk and there were soldiers, like Army Sgt. Brian Jergens, who could walk, but could barely talk.

"You know, he gets really upset about not being in the Army anymore because he's discharging right now, so I think this gives him a little bit of a boost of confidence," said Jennifer Jergens, Brian's wife.

Many of these soldiers have been staring at the same walls for months, so the battle to keep up their moral is key.

"So it's a heck of a transition to slow down from being Navy special warfare to sitting in a hospital," said U.S. Navy SEAL Petty Ofc. Jordan Stevenson.

Stevenson, showed Ward his damaged helmet and the mold of his skull before surgery, which had a huge chunk of it missing.

"It almost feels strange that they're thanking me because I'm supposed to be thanking them," said Ward.

Many of these soldiers say getting back to their units is the best mental therapy, which is why Special Ops Army Sgt. Dominic Annecchini, signed up for another tour, despite his head injury. Stevenson says he signed up for another tour too. And Ward says he thought he was a fighter.

"People are busy. I have a wife and four kids and you kind of get caught up, but it's a must that we stay connected and we don't become aloof in terms of knowing what our troops are doing, what they're going through," said Ward.


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