Today, our nation is celebrating Veterans Day. Past and present, there are countless men and women who have bravely served our country.
NewsCenter 16's Sarah Platt continues her series on one veteran who made a major sacrifice in Iraq. Sarah caught up with former Irish basketball standout and veteran, Danielle Green-Byrd.
While Veteran's Day comes around once a year on the calendar, veterans like Danielle Green-Byrd are reminded of the holiday on a daily basis.
It has been more than four years since this Iraq War veteran lost her arm to rocket fire. “I was pretty upset, I just remember thinking I'm only 27 years old, I'm not ready to die,” explains Danielle.
Once a standout left-handed shooter at Notre Dame, Danielle has been forced to function with only her right arm.
“I have to try and go back and think, how did I do it as a left-handed person? Combing my hair is a challenge,” explains Danielle. “I would say tying your shoes is something that you take for granted. Parallel parking is a challenge. On the left-hand side of the road, that’s a little challenging.”
“I can't say that this has hindered my life, I've moved forward and I've learned to adapt to the environment I'm in now,” adds Danielle.
And adapted she has. Once the queen of the basketball court, Danielle now coordinates double-dutch, cheerleading, and pom programs for Chicago Public Schools.
“It's complicated with stunts and tumbling and pyramids and motions. I'm like, whoa, that's what those girls were doing all those years when I was playing basketball!” says Danielle.
At this double-dutch competition, Danielle is in charge of grouping the athletes and making sure events run smoothly.
It is moments like these that give Danielle a new appreciation for her former Notre Dame coach, Muffett McGraw. “I really have to give Coach McGraw a lot of credit. I think she could've given up on me when I was a frosh. I don't think I was a difficult person, I just think coming from inner city society and going to Notre Dame is a culture shock, totally different,” explains Danielle.
Having grown up in the inner-city herself, Danielle knows a lot about the challenges the kids she works with are facing and she hopes her story can inspire them.
“Life is full of challenges, it's all in the way you handle it. What I would do is tell them about my situation, my mom was on crack cocaine from 7 up until now. I'm 31 years old,” says Danielle.
“I think a lot of kids in the inner city, they live day to day, moment to moment, but you just can't get caught up in the hustle and bustle of street life, you gotta have that vision.”
“It's so easy to get down on yourself and lock yourself up in the room and throw away the key, but I refuse to do that,” adds Danielle.
And after literally losing a part of her life in the war, this veteran says the troops serving shouldn't be forgotten. “If you can find an organization that's sending care packages over to Iraq or Afghanistan, Korea, we have soldiers all over, just donate and show your support,” says Danielle.
And while the lights may have dimmed on Danielle Green-Byrd's military and basketball career, she still has big fans.
“All the kids love her, including my daughter. She is a fan of Danielle Green-Byrd,” says Melissa Stevenson, Danielle’s friend and co-worker.
“I just think it's amazing when she puts her mind to it, she just does things, and it's not really an issue for her, it's really inspirational for all of us that get to be around her,” explains golf coach and co-worker Darrin Osborne.
“Life is really great. I’m just blessed to have developed all the relationships that I’ve developed since the injury. My husband has been by my side since day one, so he’s really helping me along,” explains Danielle.
“[The injury is] something I have to think about for the rest of my life, but am I going to let it hinder me? No. Like I said, I believe in reaching out to others, I believe in cultivating relationships and finding that support system,” says Danielle.
Danielle expects to complete her second masters degree in the summer of 2009. She says one day she aspires to be a school principal or dean.
Danielle was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq. She stays in touch with other disabled veterans in the area.
For more information on helping injured veterans, we have several links below.
To read Part 1 of “Catching up with Danielle Green-Byrd,” click here.