Graybeards Assist Wounded Warrior
A chance meeting between Graybeard Flip Mullen and a Manhattan surgeon has led to a collaboration that has already helped rehabilitate one soldier gravely wounded in Iraq and is well on the way to assisting a second man.
Mullen, an ex-firefighter and Rockaway resident, has been in the forefront of the peninsula's involvement in the Wounded Warrior Project.
Each year, dozens of wounded soldiers, most of whom have lost at least one limb, come to Rockaway for a long weekend of parties and water sports.
His work with the project and with the Graybeards, a local nonprofit group that performs community service and hosts the successful Family Run each year, earned Mullen recognition from Irish America magazine as one of the "Top 100 Irish Americans."
At the awards dinner, he found himself sitting with Dr. John Kennedy, another of the honorees, who is a surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
Kennedy is a one-time star school athlete who went on to become one of the nation's leading sports surgeons, treating many professional athletes.
Mullen got Kennedy interested in the Wounded Warriors program and their collaboration began right there.
Mullen brought one of the wounded soldiers, Captain Brian Jantzen, in danger of losing his leg despite a long stay at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., to Kennedy and the doctor managed to save his limb.
Now, Mullen told The Wave, he has introduced Kennedy to Staff Sergeant John Borders.
Borders joined the Army Reserve in 1990 and went on active duty in 1993.
His first tour in Iraq was in 2003. His second tour in that war began in January of 2005. He was wounded on January 5 of last year by an explosive device in Taji.
His legs were crushed. His right leg has already been amputated and his left leg is undergoing "limb salvage" at Walter Reed Hospital.
His left arm was shattered by the IED and his left ring finger was severed from his body. Today, his finger has been reattached and his arm restored, through the use of steel plates.
He had burns over much of his upper body.
While Borders is at Walter Reed, his wife, Mollie, is at his side, with his two children, Brittany (13) and Xander (3).
Living as a transient in Washington D.C., is expensive, however. Because Borders' family are not residents of Washington, the family has to pay for the schooling of the children.
Mullen says that despite Borders' heroism and his family's dedication, they are destitute. When the treatment in Washington has been completed, he said, they will come to Dr. Kennedy in Manhattan for treatment.
That will also be very expensive.
It's for that reason that the Graybeards are raising money for the family expenses during his treatment.
"He did so much for us, the least we can do is this for him," Mullen said.
Donations can be sent to the Graybeards at 436 Beach 129 Street, Rockaway Park, New York 11694. The checks should note that the donation is in the name of Sergeant Borders.