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Making JUCO Memories, The FHW Way

It’s Memorial Day, and every year Family Health West sponsors the Junior College World Series (JUCO) Monday night game. It’s also JUCO Veteran’s Day, where veterans get into the game at no charge and the field has an opening ceremony that includes dozens of flags and military branch representation. Most recently, FHW CEO Dr. Korrey Klein started catching the first pitch from a veteran. The 2023 first pitch-throwing veteran was near and dear to Dr. Klein’s heart because it was his father-in-law.

Martin Gaines, Jr., is a US Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War. On Monday night, May 29, 2023, Martin landed in the back center field of Suplizio Field by way of a helicopter. The previous time he was in a helicopter it crash landed in Vietnam, some 50 years ago. With that in mind though, he didn’t seem deterred at all. He flew in with a smile on his face, got out of the helo, and proceeded to wave to the crowd.

Martin said he was honored and humbled to be representing all the US military veterans during the Monday night JUCO game. All the veterans who didn’t make it home, those who did, and those currently serving. He didn’t always talk about his time in the Navy or overseas – at least not as openly as he does now.

His heart perhaps has softened and his grip on the memories relaxed just slightly, but enough to share his personal experience in the hopes it helps another veteran accept and deal with their unique military experience.

One of the most unique times Martin had during his deployment was being part of the team, on the USS Okinawa ship, who recovered the Apollo 15 craft and team after they safely returned to Earth in August 1971. Martin said he was able to look inside the craft after it was brought onboard their ship and he recalls that it smelled terrible. It was a small space within the craft and held 3 men for about a week and a half. The Apollo 15 mission landed on the moon and then returned to Earth landing in the North Pacific Ocean.

Martin walked to the pitcher’s mound and acknowledged Family Health West CEO, Dr. Korrey Klein, who would be holding the mitt where the baseball was intended to land. The whole family was in the stands watching.

Family Health West was the sponsor for the night JUCO game and that also meant fireworks after the conclusion of baseball. The stadium staff didn’t wait long either, once the ball field lights were turned off the blasts started with Lee Greenwood belting his iconic song over the loudspeakers. All the colors blasted up and brought out all the ohhhhs and ahhhhs. It was a great family night wrapped in patriotism, which is exactly why FHW sponsored the night.

Until next year, together we flourish!

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