This year’s Pat Tillman Award for Service was awarded to former Notre Dame women’s basketball player, Danielle Green.
Danielle lost her left arm during a patrol in Iraq in 2004. Danielle knew she was badly hurt. But then a feeling came over her: an adrenaline rush of belief.
“I actually knew I would be OK when I was still on the rooftop,” said Green, an Army veteran wounded in a grenade attack. “After I said a prayer, I felt reassurance and hope, a burst of energy. Then my comrades came, and I knew I would make it. Although I didn’t know my arm was missing.”
We can all learn lessons from many people in our lives. From our parents and teachers; from our coaches, mentors and teammates; and from those who lead us through our lives. Danielle learned a great deal from coach McGraw during her time playing for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.
“Danielle is a really strong woman I’ve got such great admiration for,” coach McGraw said. “I think basketball is so much more than the game. It’s about building confidence in young women, and seeing them grow and go off to be role models.”
As Danielle shared last night during the ESPY awards, some of the most powerful lessons we learn are from sports: “the common goals, the loyalty, the teamwork, the selflessness and the commitment that individuals serve each other.”
Not only did Danielle lose her left arm during that patrol in Iraq, she also lost her wedding rings. That may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but to her comrades it was. They went back to the rooftop, dug through almost a foot of sand, found her hand and returned her wedding rings to her.
They cared about her so much that they risked their own lives to go back and get her rings. Just like her Notre Dame teammates, her Army comrades cared about her, stood together and took care of each other. This model still prevails in Danielle Green’s life, as after her recovery she went back to school and today serves her fellow veterans. Green is now a supervisory re-adjustment counseling therapist at the veterans’ center in South Bend, Indiana.
Danielle also learned how far and wide the “Golden Dome” of Notre Dame spreads. Soon after her injury, she was transported to a hospital in Germany for surgery. One of the doctors caring for her was Tim Woods, an Air Force surgeon whose parents, Eileen and Dave Woods, were in Germany at the time visiting him.
The Woods, who were from South Bend, were also Notre Dame athletic boosters and close friends of coach McGraw. They went to see Danielle in the hospital and let coach McGraw know of her injury. Seeing the Woods family, talking to McGraw, and hearing from Notre Dame fans helped Green through those initial difficult days and weeks realizing her life had changed. A natural left-hander, she now had only her right hand to use. She had suffered other injuries as well, with a lengthy rehab to face. But she wasn’t alone.
“That realization came that, no matter where you are in the world, there’s going to be a ‘Domer’ somewhere nearby,” Green said. “When I got hurt, Notre Dame was there for me.”
Here is Danielle’s challenge for each of us. Ask yourself the following questions:
“What is my purpose? What is my passion? What do I want my legacy to be? How can I live as a full human being?”
We can all find ways to serve our community. We can all find ways to support the people around us. And we can all find a purpose on this earth larger than ourselves.
You can see more of Danielle’s speech here!
Cheers & GO IRISH!