Bucks Honor, Thank Veterans at Medical Center

While the Milwaukee Bucks may sport red and green on game nights, there are other colors that hold equal significance for the organization – red, white and blue.

Looking for a way to show their support for America’s service men and women, and with Veterans Day around the corner, players Tobais Harris, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh, along with mascot Bango, paid a special visit to veterans at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center on Nov. 5. 

“We just came to see the veterans, salute the work that they did during the wars, and come and put a smile on their faces and mingle,” Udoh said. “It was very fun.”

Held in the cafeteria of the Spinal Cord Injury Center, the players chatted with veterans over cake and ice cream, played games and posed for photographs. Simple gestures, but actions that did not go unnoticed by the patients.

“It was great to have the Bucks come here and show their support for the local veteran community in the city of Milwaukee,” Alan Lewis, a patient at the medical center, said. “We have a large veteran community, and we support the team and appreciate them coming here to show their gratitude for us.

“It helped to bring the morale up of some of these guys who are in a hard situation here at the hospital by seeing guys they look up to coming here to show their support.”

Located on a 125 acre campus on the edge of western Milwaukee, the medical center serves veterans from the Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern Illinois areas, with the mission of providing exceptional care that improves both the veterans’ health and well-being. The visit from the Bucks was just another stepping stone in reaching that goal, according to Dr. Kenneth Lee. A Purple Heart recipient, Lee is the chief of the spinal cord injury division, as well as a colonel and state surgeon in the Wisconsin National Guard.

“I’m a true believer of using sports to get people back into our society,” Lee said. “Sports are ingrained in all of us as human beings. For a lot of these guys with life altering injuries from the war, such as spinal cord, brain injury or amputation, there is nothing better than to use sports.”

With sports and physical activity acting as a key rehabilitation tool for many injured veterans, patients at the medical center also have the opportunity to take part in the newly created adaptive sports club that offers activities such as canoeing and bowling.

“To have professional sports players such as the Bucks members come here, even if it’s just a simple signing and shaking hands, is a big motivator for these guys to look ahead,” Lee said. “Many of them are depressed and many don’t know what they should do in the future. So this gives them a jump start, and maybe they’ll start coming to some of the other activities we put together. This gathering that the Bucks have put together for us is great timing and is a great venue for us to really get more involved.”

Before wrapping up the event, Harris took a moment to speak to the veterans in attendance.

“On behalf of my teammates and the Milwaukee Bucks organization, we would just like to thank all of you for what you’ve done for our country,” Harris said. “This is our first time coming here and visiting, but it definitely won’t be our last.”

This weekend (Nov. 9-12), to commemorate the Veterans Day holiday, players league-wide will wear special on-court apparel as part of the NBA Cares Hoops for Troops initiative. A year-round endeavor for the NBA, Hoops for Troops pairs with the Department of Defense, USO and other military and veteran servicing organizations, like the medical center, to honor active and retired service men and women and their families.