Ovation for a hero

STORRS, Conn. – Very cool moment at Gampel Pavilion at halftime of tonight’s UConn game vs. Detroit. The game was the opener of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, which concludes at Madison Square Garden in New York next week.

UConn’s honorary captain for the game was Sgt. First Class Micah Welintukonis, a Wounded Warrior from my hometown of Coventry, Conn. The crowd of 8,140 gave Welintukonis a standing ovation and the student section chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A,” as he stood at midcourt during a halftime ceremony.

This hero from Coventry has served in the Army for 19 years. He was deployed to Kosovo in 1999, to Iraq in 2004 and to Afghanistan in 2012. In July 2012 in Afghanistan he was shot in the arm. As he rushed to assist other soldiers, he was caught in a suicide bomber attack. He suffered severe shrapnel injuries to his arm, abdomen, shoulder and face.

Welintukonis has had 10 surgeries during his recuperation period, including an operation in September to restore more range of motion to his left arm. During his introduction to the crowd, he lifted his shirt and grinned as the details of his injuries were announced.

Now Welintukonis assists other veterans in their transition to returning home. He lives in Coventry with his wife Camilla and three sons – Brody (9), Chase (7) and Hunter (10 months).

And, by the way, he received a Purple Heart for his service to his country.

Thank you Sgt. First Class Welintukonis for your sacrifice and service. Everyone at Gampel was honored by your attendance.

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