Jayhawks Visit War Heroes on First Day in Nation's Capital

June 2, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The University of Kansas national champion men’s basketball team started its two-day tour of Washington D.C. at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center Monday.

The group first toured the Center’s Military Advance Training Facility where soldiers injured in battle work to rehabilitate. Many were amputees injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

From there, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren presented KU head coach Bill Self with a plaque in a brief ceremony before he and the Jayhawks visited the main hospital and many of the wounded.

“We’ve labeled today as national champions meet national heroes,” Geren said. “I am confident you will go away from here feeling uplifted.”

“We have looked so forward to our trip to Washington,” Self said. “I think our visit to the Walter Reed Medical Center will be a major highlight of the trip. We take for granted so many of the gifts that we have and then to see people that are out there doing things that really matter in life – protecting us so we have an opportunity to do such things. It is very humbling, rewarding and certainly something I think we will get a lot out of. It is our privilege to accept this (plaque) and definitely our privilege to be here today.”

For most of the visit, Self tagged behind the group, greeting, meeting and signing autographs for all who approached him. COL William J. Howard III, who is stationed in Hawaii, presented Self with a crimson and blue lei. Howard is a 1981 KU graduate and a KU ROTC graduate. His daughter, Lauren Howard, is a senior in the Art Department at KU.

The coaches and players then split up and visited many of the injured on Ward 57 and Ward 68. One patient whom team members visited was Erie, Kansas, native Kody Wilson.

“These guys are heroes,” Kansas senior Jeremy Case said. “They have put their lives on the line for our country. It was an honor to meet them.”

The group is scheduled to take an evening bus tour of Washington D.C. area memorials and monuments to conclude the day.

On Tuesday, the team will tour the White House before meeting President George W. Bush in a Rose Garden ceremony starting at 10 a.m. (EST). From there, the Jayhawks will tour the U.S. Supreme Court, and then the U.S. Capitol, where they will meet the Kansas delegation.