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Men’s Basketball: Irish visit Walter Reed hospital

Chris Khorey | Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Notre Dame traveled to Washington last week to play a basketball game – they also got a lesson in life.On Friday, the day before their 84-66 loss to the Hoyas, the Irish visited Walter Reed Army Military Center in Washington to meet with wounded, injured and ill members of the Armed Forces.Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said he first came up with the idea to take his team to the hospital during his trip to Kuwait last summer for Operation Hardwood, a basketball tournament for members of the armed services with the help of coaches from the states.”When I made the Kuwait trip last year, the contact said, ‘Hey, when you come to D.C. to play Georgetown, if you ever want to [visit Walter Reed] you can.'”Brey, who still keeps in contact with his players from Kuwait, said his interest in using basketball to support the military comes from his parents. His father was in the Army and his mother was a physical therapist at Walter Reed. What’s more, Brey makes a living working with players who are the same age as many of the soldiers currently serving overseas. He said his players can learn lessons from meeting the soldiers that apply on and off the court – especially after a game like the loss to the Hoyas.”Sometimes when you’re a college athlete, you don’t live in a real world,” Brey said. “After you [visit Walter Reed], you should never feel sorry for yourself again.”Irish forward Rob Kurz said the thing he noticed most was the commitment of the soldiers being treated, several of whom said they were anxious to get back overseas to continue their service.Point guard Tory Jackson said the soldiers trying to cope with sometimes life-changing injuries affected him the most.”Whatever we go through, they’re worse off than we are,” Jackson said. “It let everybody know that we shouldn’t complain about anything.”Brey said he likes to take to take his team on “field trips” scheduled around road games, especially when Notre Dame visits cities with historical and political significance, like Washington.”In the midst of basketball, in addition to getting an NCAA tournament bid, there’s an educational side,” he said.The coach said that the sight-seeing trips have rarely been as poignant as the visit to Walter Reed, which serves more than 150,000 patients.”When we’ve gone to D.C. we’ve done the White House and we’ve done things like that, but I think this one, given what’s going on in our world and in our country, we’ll try to well-round these guys,” Brey said.