In April 2003 Army lacrosse coach Jack Emmer's cellphone rang. It was former Black Knights captain John Fernandez, who'd been serving as a first lieutenant in the Iraq war. Fernandez, 27, was at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.; the day before his left foot and part of his right leg had been amputated, the result of a combat injury. Fernandez said to Emmer, "I'm going to come back and play in the alumni game."
Fernandez, who needed four months to learn to walk with prosthetics, made good on his promise last fall, scoring a goal in the annual game between Emmer's current team and alumni. He was back again last Friday in Annapolis, in the inaugural Army-Navy Alumni Lacrosse Game. "I'm a bit out of shape," he says, "but glad I could get out there."
The event raised $110,000 for the Fallen Heroes Fund for families of soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq. Fernandez now lives on Long Island with his wife, Kristi, and their year-old daughter, Madison. He is studying to become a high school math teacher. "This is just something I have to deal with--you put your shoes on every day, I put on my legs," he says. "Don't give me any credit I don't deserve."
TWO COLOR PHOTOS
PHIL HOFFMANN (FERNANDEZ AND FERNANDEZ PLAYING)
Fernandez was one of 75 Army alums who took on Navy.