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War Hero Inspires Wes Welker

By Ron Sanders, WBZ-TV
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Army Staff Sergeant Michael Downing

Army Staff Sergeant Michael Downing

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NORTH ATTLEBORO (CBS) – The theme of the day at Falls Elementary School in North Attleboro was heroism. When Wes Welker walked into the school, followed by Army Staff Sgt. Michael Downing, it was a surprise for the kids. Probably no one was more excited though than Downing’s 10-year-old son, Jimmy, who’s a student at the school.

“I had no idea Wes was coming so it was kind of unexpected for me,” he said, wearing a replica Welker jersey for his school’s Spirit Day.

The Patriots star was introduced to Staff Sgt. Downing last summer by Liberty Bay Credit Union which has helped Downing with rehabilitation equipment since he lost his legs to an I.E.D. explosion on patrol in Afghanistan.

Welker says Downing has inspired him in his own recovery from reconstructive knee surgery.

“It’s definitely motivation for me to be out there on Sundays and give my all every play,” said the 5’9″, 185-pound wide receiver.

“I think he’s the crazy one,” countered Staff Sgt. Downing. “He’s out there running around with guys more than twice his size.”

Downing teamed up with Welker to field questions about heroism from the kids. “Is it scary out on the field?” asked one.

“Which field? Battlefield or my field?” asked Welker. “Not really,” he said. “If you go out there scared, you’re confidence is going to be down.”

“Even though I’m like this,” Staff Sgt. Downing gestured to his legs, “I drive a truck. I have a motorcycle. I cut my own grass and I play hockey.”

It was a stirring thought for Veterans Day that Wes Welker, who embodies sacrifice on the football field for the New England Patriots, looks up to Staff Sgt. Downing who sacrificed parts of his body on the battlefield as an American patriot.

“Real patriots and the Patriots team are kind of alike,” commented 10-year-old Jimmy Downing.

“You know, you think you’re on the battlefield out there playing on Sundays but after meeting Sgt. Downing and hearing his stories and his experiences, it’s a blessing to hear a guy in his situation and how humble he is about it,” offered Welker.

The students asked a couple of amusing questions. One of them was, “Did you fight the British?” to which Staff Sgt. Downing answered, “I’m not that old.” Another youngster asked Welker, “When did you play football?” to which number 83 answered, “I still do.”

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