Very often, we use words incorrectly or inappropriately. Media members are no exception. In fact, we may be the worst offenders. An athlete is a “hero”. He made a “courageous” effort. You get the message. These words flow off our tongues and you’ve come to accept them. Since we just celebrated Memorial Day, let me take a moment to tell you about a real hero. He’s a man who comes to work at McCoy Stadium every day. He’s not a pitcher. He’s not a great hitter and he’ll never win a Gold Glove. If you walked past him, you might not even notice Mike Roose. He’s not a really big guy, although as the PawSox strength coach, he is well put together. Even that is not what sets Roose apart from most of us. Roose is a veteran of the U.S Air Force and has served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He volunteered. No one forced him. No one drafted the Pawtucket native. No one held a gun to his head. Mike Roose just sacked up and enlisted.
While most of us smoldered after the events that took place on September 11, 2001, Roose put his money where his mouth was. “After all that happened on 9/11, seeing the devastation and seeing just how patriotic everyone was at that time, made me feel that it was the right thing to do at that time. I wanted to do someting bigger than myself, and do someting for somebnody else. Just give back, really.” While many of us sit in our easy chairs and say we’re going to do something, Roose took the bull by the horns. He admits, however, there was plenty of soul-searching involved. “A lot of people questioned it. Asking if I was crazy for risking my life. I believe that actions speak louder than words. A lot of guys talk about doing the right thing. If you feel it’s the right thing, if you know it’s the right thing, then you act upon it.”
Roose has come back a changed man. While many of us might gripe about the economy, or a Red Sox loss, Mike has things in perspective. “Being over there is life-changing. You try to tell people about your experiences and the way of life over there…Young children with no shoes or even no clothing, bathing in and drinking the same water that is used by cattle and sheep. Even the military, operating over there with just the bare necessities. Lying in your cot or tent or where ever you are, you realize just how lucky we really are to live in America and have everything that we do have. Those people have never even been able to have a dream about the things that we have, or how great life is here. It puts things into perspective. We are lucky to be Americans.”
It’s hard to call anything that Roose witnessed a “highlight”. He had a front row seat to the horror and carnage. He did have an experience, though, that many Americans would have loved to see. The incarceration of Saddam Hussein. ” I wasn’t there for the actual capture, but I was able to see him be held by the United States as he came through our area.” The tyrant, who had hundreds of his own people slaughtered, was nothing more than a sniveling coward while held by U.S. forces. “He was just a man. I guess you have even less respect for him when you see him. We saw just how weak he was. You’d have no respect for him for the things you’d heard he’d done to people, but after seeing him, we had even less respect for him.”
On Monday, Memorial Day, Roose remembered his fallen comrades, from the current conflict as well as those of past wars. “The guys I served with are great men, but there are greater generations before us. I believe the veterans of World War II are the greatest generation that the world has ever known. Without them, it’d be a totally different picture for everyone. They saved the world. It lets me think about about those who gave their lives, their service. That’s what I really think about today.”
Mike Roose says that he has been treated exceptionally well since his return home. He feels fortunate that his group of returning heroes faces a much more cordial reception than the men and women of a generation ago- The Vietnam vets. “We are definitely treated way better. The stories I’ve heard…We get a lot of respect. I don’t usually go around telling people what I did” Roose says the reception around here is always heartwarming. ” I came back from a couple of tours and we’d be somewhere and my dad would say ‘Hey my boy just got back from a tour of duty’ and the whole place would stand up and cheer for me. There’s a lot of patriotism in the area and that felt good.”
Mike even thinks that his military record had a lot to do with his current job as strength coach for the PawSox. “I probably wouldn’t be sitting here in this position in the Red Sox organization if I hadn’t been in the military. It says a lot that the Sox gave me that kind of respect. They’ve trusted me with their players, their prospects, their investments. That, right there, says there is a lot of respect.” Roose doesn’t tell his charges about his past, but word spreads. he has a certain amount of credibility built in, before the workout begins.
Over the last day or two, a photo has appeared in the clubhouse on the bulletin board, just outside the PawSox weight room. It is of Roose and three fellow soldiers in fatigues, full gear, holding machine guns somewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq. Not that wearing the uniform of the Pawtucket Red Sox is insignificant, by any stretch of the imagination, but man, does that photo put things into perspective. If you happen to run into Mike Roose, or any of the other brave men and women who’ve given their service, please make sure to thank them.