ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) – It was a flag football game like few offers where the heroes were men and women who returned from war with battle scars.
They were part of the WWAFT, Wounded Warrior Amputee Football team, who clashed with Atlanta Falcons and retired NFL players at XL Sports in Fairburn.
In the WWAFT ranks was an active military member; Purple Heart recipient, Army Green Beret Staff Sargent Richard Stayskal., a Purple Heart recipient.
The flag football game pitted the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team versus former NFL stars. Among the veterans was Stayskal, who has Stage IV terminal lung cancer. It is a diagnosis doctors at Womack Army Medical Center missed, according to a lawsuit and medical records.
Stayskal’s fight to give troops the right to sue for medical malpractice, which they are barred from doing under the Feres Doctrine, has now led to a Congressional hearing.
“We’re trying to bring that change there,” said Stayskal. “So there is an accountability.”
After seeing Stayskal’s story on FOX 46, former Carolina Panthers’ linebacker Chris Draft wanted to get results. Draft knows firsthand the pain of Stage IV lung cancer after losing his wife Keisha to the disease in 2011. He has since become an advocate for early detection and has found a friend in Stayskal.
“He’s like too many people diagnosed later,” said Draft. “In his case, it maybe could have been found earlier. And that’s our goal.”
“It’s not just enough to salute. We’ve got to make sure they’re taken care of,” said Draft. ” They’re going to put their bodies on the line, we got to make sure they’re taken care of when they come back home.”
Stayskal believes an earlier detection could have been the difference between life and death.
Draft recently took Staskal and his family to a Panthers game where Stayskal was honored by the team. Now, Draft, who took part in the wounded warrior game, has brought Stayskal and his wife, Megan, to Atlanta to attend Super Bowl events.
After posing for pictures with mascots, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy, Stayskal got to play in the wounded warrior game.
It was a chance for the public to honor the real heroes on and off the field.
“This is what this game’s about – showcasing the individual challenges that we have, we can overcome,” said BJ Gannem, whow as injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004. That is the same year Stayskal was shot in the lung, for which he later was awarded a Purple Heart. “And we are stronger than we think.”
Stayskal describes the experience as humbling.
“I’ve met great people. I’ve seen amazing things,” said Stayskal. “All these athletes out here coming together for common goals and interests it’s very humbling.”
FOX 46 reported on this story from Charlotte, N.C.