By: RJ Kaminski
Since playing lacrosse at West Point, life has changed quite a bit for U.S. Army Captain Benjamin Harrow. The 35-year-old lost both of his legs and a few fingers on his right hand from the blast of an IED when he walked through a doorway in Afghanistan.
Ever since that accident, Harrow has dedicated his time to ensure he was able to walk again. “So much of my right femur got taken off in the blast, I couldn’t wear a regular prosthetic,” Harrow said.
After doing some research and getting in touch with the right doctors, Harrow used a non-FDA approved device to regrow six inches of bone matter so that he could properly fit into a prosthetic. After attending Shootout for Soldiers Baltimore last summer, he made a promise to the team that he would be back. “This time on legs,” he promised.
Wednesday’s Veterans game drew hundreds down to the lower field to spectate one of the greatest storylines in Shootout for Soldiers history. CPT. Ben Harrow walked onto the lacrosse field alongside his best friend Erik Mineo, for the first time since playing for West Point.
“It just felt really great to get back on the field with Erik,” he said. “Stepping on the field again with our old Army lacrosse teammates…it felt normal, again.”
For someone who was new to the goalie position, Harrow put on a clinic. He notched several kick saves, which he attributes to a fear that most goalies have, but that he does not have to worry about.
“Honestly, it’s a lot easier to play goalie when you’re not worried about taking a ball off your shin,” he laughed. “I wasn’t too anxious to get nailed in the thigh with a shot because it’s a prosthetic leg.”
Harrow applied what he knew about saving pucks on the ice in his sled hockey league to the lacrosse net. After judging his performance during the Vets game, he wants a new pair of legs to work with next time.
“It’s the same principle of angles,” he said. “[Though] I’m not as quick to rotate and pivot. I’m sure the next time I play, I’ll be able to figure something out and create a different set of legs to play on so I can pivot and turn a little faster.”
Mineo, a former face-off specialist, sacrificed playing his normal position so that he could play alongside his best friend in the cage.
“Number 44 and 37 stepped on the field together for the first time since 2005,” Mineo said. “This game marked a very special day for me…I was able to play lacrosse with my brother again.”
The final whistle blew, sending every Veteran player from both sides rushing toward the net to give a hug, a high-five and a “well done” to CPT. Harrow.
“It was cool that everyone from both teams came over and congratulated me,” Harrow said. “It was touching and it was great to be a part of that.”
Harrow hopes Veterans who are on the fence about playing make the decision to come out to a Shootout for Soldiers event. He hopes his story influences others to do just that.
“It was just cool to tell people the message of Shootout for Soldiers and to help draw attention to their mission statement,” he said. “It wasn’t just all about myself and what I’ve been through.”
After recounting all of Wednesday’s emotions out at St. Paul’s School, Harrow referenced the similarities between two of the strongest communities he has been a part of.
“The military community is just as tight-knit as the lacrosse community,” he assured our team. “And to be honest, I think that the lacrosse community is even tighter than the military community…it really is family.”
13 years down the road from their West Point playing days, Harrow’s Army friends took the field once more. Someone standing on the sideline supplied even more added meaning to Harrow’s come back game.
“My wife was there to see me play,” he said. “It really was a storybook ending to the Ben Harrow lacrosse career as a college player… I feel like Hollywood couldn’t really write that any better.”