‘Team Mom’ supports soldiers

U.S. Army photo: Tim Hipps All-Army women’s softball coach Sgt. 1st Class Rob Bailey of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., hangs his gold medal around the neck of Debra Rogers, mother of All-Army second baseman Dann Rogers of Camp Walker, Korea, at the 2010 Armed Forces Softball Championships at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Despite battling breast cancer, Debra made the trip from Marinette, Wis., and attended all 17 of the All-Army men’s and women’s games.

By Tim Hipps: U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command

NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. — Debra Rogers found a bit of golden respite in her battle against cancer: a week in the warm Florida sun, watching her son and his friends — all soldiers — play softball against other U.S. servicemembers.

“My doctor told me that I shouldn’t come, but I told him that I needed to go,” said Rogers, who underwent a double mastectomy April 30 and began chemotherapy treatments in June.

“We talked about it, and he then agreed with me, knowing that I was going anyway,” she added with a laugh. “He said that maybe Dann would be the best medicine.”

Her son, 31-year-old Staff Sgt. Dann Rogers of Camp Walker, Korea, played second base for the All-Army team at the 2010 Armed Forces Softball Championships held here Sept. 19-23.

Debra served as the unofficial “team mom” for both the All-Army men’s and women’s squads as they competed against members of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

“It’s like little kids playing on the softball field, and you blink, and they’re grown men,” she said. “You know what I mean? They enjoy the game, they play very well, and to come together for a couple of weeks as a group to play like this, it’s just outstanding. But that’s what I thought: a group of little boys, and I blink my eyes, and they’re men.”

It was 40 degrees when Debra left home in Marinette, Wis., Sept. 18. Despite temperatures in the 90s at Naval Air Station Pensacola, she attended all 17 of the All-Army men’s and women’s games.

“Physically, yes, at times the pain from the chemotherapy goes into your joints. The headaches are severe, and there’s cramping,” she said. “The sun actually did feel good, but right before I got overheated, I would go sit in the shade. And the people were very, very kind.”

All-Army women’s softball coach Sgt. 1st Class Rob Bailey was kind enough to give his gold medal to Debra.

“I see someone who is a gold-medal fan and most definitely a gold-medal mother,” Bailey said as he presented his medal to Debra. “I want you to have this on behalf of Danny and the team and All-Army.”

With eyes welling with tears, the All-Army players then lined up for hugs with their newfound mom.

“I’m so proud of each and every one of you,” she told the group. “You’ve made a memory for me that on the worst day I’m going to have, I’m going to pull it out. Thank you.”

Debra proudly displayed the gold medal to fellow passengers on her flight to Atlanta the next day. She was even more proud of the way her son played.

Rogers, who batted .556 and had 13 RBIs, earned both All-Tournament and All-Armed Forces honors as one of nine Armed Forces rookies on the All-Army men’s squad.

“I know he is a good player because he plays from the heart,” Debra said. “He has soul for this game, and he enjoys himself. I’m proud of him no matter what, but it is an honor for him to have come and played well and he is still going on.”

Rogers, who has deployed five times to Iraq and Afghanistan, also competed Sept. 30-Oct. 4 with the U.S. All-Armed Forces Team at the 2010 Amateur Softball Association National Championships in Oklahoma City.