Danielle Green played basketball for Notre Dame University from 1995-2000, but that's only one reason why she was honored at Wednesday night’s ESPY awards. Green’s military service, her courage and perseverance through a devastating injury and her resolve to continue serving her fellow veterans are what earned her the Pat Tillman Award for Service.
After her tenure as a student athlete, Green felt the call to serve in a different arena. As she put it in her video package before accepting her award, “I said man, that would be cool to serve my country.”
At age 26, Green enlisted in the army. Just a few months into her first tour in Iraq, the Humvee she was in was attacked during a routine patrol. When she woke up, she had lost one arm.
Losing her arm didn't mean she also lost sight of her mission to serve others. Green accepted her new body, soon finished school, and volunteered to work for a veterans’ center.
Her faith, she shared, was an integral part of her survival.
"I actually knew I would be OK when I was still on the rooftop," said Green, an Army veteran wounded in a grenade attack. "After I said a prayer, I felt reassurance and hope, a burst of energy. Then my comrades came, and I knew I would make it. Although I didn't know my arm was missing."
When Green accepted the award from actress Halle Berry, she had one more moving anecdote to share with attendees.
“When my left arm was separated from my body, I thought, ‘I also lost my wedding ring,’ she said. "That might seem like a small footnote, but not to my comrades. That night, they went back to the rooftop, where we had been attacked, dug through almost a foot of sand, and found my hand and my rings. I’ll never forget that, them coming to my hospital room that night to bring my rings back to me. I’ll never forget the feeling of people caring about me so much that they would risk their own lives for me. The idea of people caring for one another.”
It's an incredible story, and one that demonstrates the character of those who sign up to serve our country.
"For any of this to be worthwhile, I had to have people help me," she said.
Pat Tillman was a football player for the Arizona Cardinals who left the team in 2002 to join the army. He was killed in Afghanistan two years later. The Pat Tillman Award was first introduced last year, when it was awarded to Purple Heart recipient Josh Sweeney.
The time dedicated to Green and her story equaled about 10 minutes. Later in the evening, Caitlyn Jenner was given nearly 30 minutes and a standing ovation for accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage award and talking about changing genders. Considering Jenner was already granted a two-hour interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer earlier this year, perhaps time would be better spent giving Green more time in the spotlight.