Veteran spreads hope, handing over Purple Heart to Bucs

They're not taking the field for battle, but a band of brothers they are -- willing to sacrifice and put it all on the line for one common goal. It's a parallel Marine veteran, Lance Corporal Josh Frey, can identify with.

The Clearwater native and Iraq war veteran is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and part of his healing process was a gesture no one saw coming Thursday: the lifelong Bucs fan gave General Manager, Jason Licht one of his two Purple Hearts.

"At first he didn't want it," Frey explained, "saying I can't do this. And I wanted to tell him it's not about me and my Purple Heart. You know you have guys come home in a box only receive a Purple Heart."

Licht was startled. The gift "sent chills," he said. "In the grand scheme of things, not nearly as big as he's done and our wounded warriors have been through."

Frey received the first Purple Heart in 2004, following a RPG attack in Fallujah; yet the second nearly took his life just two weeks prior to returning home. It still haunts him to this day. His friend, Hudson native, Lance Corporal Josh Dickinson went into a house to battle insurgents.

Frey reminisces of that time in his life, "There was just so many bad things that happened that day, we tried to go in and save him and that's when I got shot in my arm. It was just the fog of war clearing houses in Fallujah. I really thought I was a goner."

Severely bleeding, Frey required 6 blood transfusions and 22 operations to repair his right arm.

At that point, Frey thought he wasn't going to come home.

But Friday night, Frey felt right at home, as the Bucs honored wounded warriors at their annual night practice. The story of his grand gesture fresh in the minds of the Bucs players and staff.

"It inspires us," said Licht, "there is a lot of people that have faith in us and are supporting us."

Frey explained that he just wanted to do something for Mr. Licht, "'Cause I know he's a new GM, I have an optimistic feeling of hope through the years. Just like vets, if you get the right team together, the right unit, the right support, I mean you can do anything."

So as they take the field this season, Frey hopes the sacrifices his band of brothers and sisters made will inspire the Bucs toward that one common goal of victory.

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