Operation Mend: Danielle-Green-ESPYs

Danielle Green knew she was badly hurt. Shortly into her 2004 deployment to Iraq, she was hit by shrapnel from an RPG that exploded next to her while she was pulling sentry duty on a rooftop in Baghdad.

“That pain was like nothing else,” Green said. “It was so painful I wanted to die.”

She said a prayer, and afterwards, she felt reassured, knowing she would be all right. It wasn’t until her comrades came to her rescue that Green realized she had lost part of her left arm. Following extensive surgeries and rehab, she had to face the reality that her military career, as she knew it, was over.

Green attended graduate school, and studied to be a school counselor. But still wanting to serve, she needed to find a new mission. And she has found that mission with the Department of Veterans Affairs, serving as a readjustment therapist at the Veterans Center in South Bend, Indiana. “It’s how I can continue serving my fellow veterans,” she said.

Last week Green was honored with the 2015 Pat Tillman Award for Service at ESPN’s Espy Awards held in Los Angeles. For the Notre Dame graduate, former Division I women’s basketball player, wounded warrior, veterans’ counselor, mother and daughter, the so-called “test runs” of sports competition built a resolve inside her.

Pat Tillman’s widow, Marie, who is the co-founder and president of the Pat Tillman Foundation, said Green was selected for the award because of her resilience and personal efforts that have made her “a voice and advocate for this generation of veterans.”

Green’s admiration for fellow athlete Tillman makes the honor particularly poignant.

“I can talk to my son when he’s old enough to understand,” Green said. “And say, ‘Here’s the significance of this award.’ It’s about the commitment and sacrifice that Pat Tillman made. And your mom, and so many other people. Those are the lessons I’m looking to pass on.”

While the path that took a young woman from her hometown of Chicago, to South Bend, to Iraq and back was not an easy journey, it has been a purposeful one. Therefore, we are honored to recognize Danielle Green.