Army Vet Writes Hockey Novel Celebrating Role of Sports as Rehab for Wounded Warriors

by Michael Freeman

It’s an unfortunate truth many of our veterans return with injuries, both physical and mental. Recognizing this, an Army veteran wrote a hockey novel celebrating sports as a form of rehabilitation for our wounded warriors.

Stars and Stripes spoke to the author, Brad Huestis, in a phone interview about the book. The former paratrooper says the book combines his love of ice hockey with personal experiences in a U.S. military community in Bavaria.

Ahab: A Hockey Story talks about a U.S. soldier losing his leg in an accident while parachuting into Poland during an exercise. The book provides a look at what troops go through when they suffer a serious injury and how sports can greatly aid their recovery. Some of the locations and events, such as Grafenwoehr Training Area’s water tower and Oktoberfest, will be familiar to many.

In his own life, Huestis is a retired lieutenant colonel who served as a paratrooper, artilleryman, and judge advocate. He received the Bronze Star medal in Iraq before transitioning to a civilian role providing legal services to troops in Grafenwoehr. “The story is 100 percent fictional but the background is 100 percent real,” he told Stars and Stripes. The book’s protagonist, Will Foley, loves hockey. This love inspires him to create a base team at Grafenwoehr that he plays and coaches on for a decade.

In real life, Huestis said many wounded warriors in Germany were going through Army medical boards. Noting how difficult it could be for them to get their medical benefits, he states sports like hockey serves as solace and respite. Additionally, the novel takes place in 2013 and discusses actual events, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.

More Veterans Receiving Recognition

Veterans typically receive a warm welcome and honors for their service, but things weren’t always that way. Vietnam veterans notoriously received lackluster support for their service years ago. After five decades, a Vietnam veteran finally received recognition.

Smiles for America wanted to honor veterans by having a dentist from all 50 states recognize and provide service to a hero they believed showed extraordinary bravery and courage. The selected veteran would receive free dental work. Derek Hoffman of Family and Implant Dentistry chose Vietnam veteran Larry Brown. “He is the epitome of what it means to be a Nebraskan,” Hoffman said. “And the sacrifices he gave to our country, he is very well-deserving.”

Brown needed dental work for decades, but heard military dentists were a nightmare. As such, he avoided them while enlisted. After becoming a civilian, the VA couldn’t help him and he admits paying himself would cause a struggle financially. Brown likes the gesture, saying it’s probably the first nice thing he received after serving. “This is really, since I’ve been out of the service, probably the first nice thing that’s happened to me regarding my service to the country. So I’m very excited. Very happy.”