WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9)--On this Veterans Day, we have a story about war heroes and athletes, and what can happen when the two groups meet. The Washington Wizards recently honored those who lost their limbs and even their lives going to war for this country. Andrea McCarren witnessed a special event inside the Verizon Center.
"We know he died for a good cause," said 16 year-old Paul Kelly. "I'm glad he got to die doing what he loved and helping other people."
His father, Army pilot Paul Kelly was killed in Iraq in 2007.
"Our life is not the same," said his widow, Maria Kelly."As we used to be happy family."
Added his son, Paul, "Every day we miss him more and more. Because I can't go outside and throw the football with him. It's just not the same."
The fallen soldier's sons--Paul and J.J.--are devoted Washington Wizards fans.
"Just like their Dad, they love sports. They watch every time they play," said Maria Kelly.
Which is why today is shaping up to be something special.
"It feels awesome," said 12 year-old J.J. Kelly, about mingling with the NBA players. "It's kind of cool because they're one of the best."
The families of fallen soldiers and wounded warriors from Walter Reed came to the Verizon Center to meet the players.
"It's like a dream come true. You get to meet superstars of the NBA. You can't really ask for nothing else," said gunshot survivor, Staff Sgt.Jerice Boston.
The families are united in their healing by a group known as TAPS-the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
The idea of the event was for those who gave so much to their country to come face to face with their heroes.... But it turned out, it was the Wizards that met theirs.
"They're my heroes because they sacrificed everything to give us freedom in this country. And there's a lot of people that might be afraid to do those types of things, but they go out there and get their life on the line," said John Wall, Washington Wizards star.
And when the cameras were gone, a special gift emerged from the locker room from Nene. Two pairs of his size 17 sneakers.
"That's awesome! I got some shoes!" said a smiling, but stunned Paul Kelly.
Said his mother, "Just looking at them smiling, I'm grateful."
The Wizards are teaming up with TAPS to sell these hats at games and in the team store. They cost $25 and up, and all the proceeds go to TAPS.
15-hundred ball caps are now available for purchase, generously donated by TELOS Corporation, an IT consulting company based in Ashburn, Virginia.
For more information on TAPS, check out their website:
Written by Andrea McCarren, WUSA9
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