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Heroes on and off the field: America’s Amputee Softball Team comes to Northport

People by: Joanne Kountourakis with guest writer Katheryn Laible, July 5, 2022

USA Patriot Josh Wege dives for home. Photo credit: Steve Caputo

Later this month, The Firefly Artists in Northport Village will host a reception for the USA Patriots: America’s Amputee Softball Team, just one day ahead of the team’s tenth anniversary games on Long Island. The meet and greet will feature an exhibition of photos by Firefly Steve Caputo, who has been documenting the Patriots since their inception.

The Patriots (formerly known as the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team) was founded in response to the growing need for continued rehabilitation options for wounded warriors. The organization’s mission is to bring athletic and veteran amputees together to promote the benefits of inclusive sport and therapeutic recreational activities. The Patriots have since grown in significant ways; through the sport of slow pitch softball, the team not only allows veterans to show off their abilities as post-trauma athletes, but also provides athletic and youth programming initiatives, including a weeklong kids’ camp.

Managing partner at the The Firefly Gallery, Katheryn Laible recently joined her fellow Firefly Steve, Patriots Long Island Volunteer Chair Joe Bartumioli, the team’s Executive Director Desiree Ellison, and team member Greg Reynolds for a conversation about the Patriots’ history and growth. As Katheryn describes on her e-publication Synchronicity, all USA Patriots team members are missing or hardly have at least one limb. Several are missing more. “Theirs are not stories of misfortune, however, so much as triumph over challenge; of determination to overcome and to lead others in doing the same,” Katheryn writes.

Included below are excerpts from Katheryn’s story, published with her permission; you can read the full entry here.


The focus is on playing ball and playing it well, but it’s really about much more than that. The game, while deeply therapeutic and community building, symbolizes a much bigger idea about showing the world what’s possible.

One of these guys, Matias Ferreira, “The man with a million dollar smile,” as Joe lovingly refers to him, is the only one who actually lives on Long Island. Matias lost both legs in combat as a 19-year-old Marine. Now, he serves as a Suffolk County police officer. Another player, Josh Wege, will tell you that life is better now than he suspects it might have been without his injury.

Greg Reynolds, who is missing a shoulder and an arm, now holds a world record of 54 one-armed pushups within one minute with a 40-pound weight strapped to his back. In addition to being a stellar athlete and a primary booster of the USA Patriots, Greg also runs another motivational charity called “Makin’ Lemonade." This, too, is about making the best of life’s more difficult situations.

While these veterans may have medals for valiant service, the heroism here is about what they’re doing now. There’s a condition to serving on this team, one beyond having become an amputee in service to the US Military.

“These guys are not just in it for themselves but for each other. And there’s more. Much more.” Joe looks at me intently as he emphasizes this point: “To play, you’ve got to mentor a kid AND a parent who attend a special camp that shows them you can have a good and active life after catastrophic injury.”

USA Patriot Greg Reynolds at bat. Photo credit: Steve Caputo

How It Started
It all began at Walter Reed hospital with a one-week spring training in softball for wounded veterans who were learning to walk again. Very quickly, it became apparent that this was a great idea. It was obvious that the game was deeply healing, both physically and emotionally. In 2011, they established a team that deepened this experience and also met with great success.

Like one often finds among service folk, it wasn’t long before these veterans were itching to give back to the communities who had supported them in their times of need. Coming together to see what they could do, they decided to pay the gift forward by using their service to show “how life without limbs can be limitless.”

Thus, Kids Camp was established. The team itself takes great pride in fundraising for the weeklong camp so that no child or family has to be burdened with the costs of attending. They make sure they’ve got them covered.

The team and the camp together foster a tremendous sense of camaraderie among the players. They also get to further develop their leadership skills by mentoring and coaching young children who have suffered limb loss. It is liberating for these kids and their families to see how they may overcome their challenges and live active, engaged lives.

Many of the veterans involved will tell you that being able to do this also enhances their own healing. Joe gets at least as excited about the team’s impact on young people as he does his beloved players. There are so many stories he is eager to share…of kids willing to wear shorts again, of learning they can play sports again; of realizing that there are very cool people out there living tremendously rich lives despite super challenging circumstances and that they, too, can be one of them.

Often, the parents need to see this as least as much as the kids do. The USA Patriots live to show us all.

How It's Going
The USA Patriots have now developed four branches of programming: A softball team, a spring training week that provides adaptive skills training, and the Kids Camp, which engages teammates in leadership, coaching and the sharing of adaptive sport techniques with children who have experienced catastrophic injury. The fourth aspect is public education and motivational speaking regarding their experience, adaptive sports and prosthetic care...

These are stories of love and deep admiration for extraordinary hero-athletes who are committed to showing the world what’s possible. Their enthusiasm for this extraordinary softball team is contagious.


The reception for the USA Patriots will take place at The Firefly Artists Gallery (162 Main Street, Northport) on July 22 from 5-7pm. Visitors will have opportunities to take photos with team members and enter a raffle for prizes. The Patriots’ Long Island games are scheduled for July 23 and 24, in Moriches and Bayport. All games are free and open to the public.

To learn more about and help support the USA Patriots, visit their website.

The USA Patriots team. Photo credit: Steve Caputo