By Sean Labar
When walking through the halls of the Community Living Center at the McGuire Veterans Affairs hospital in Richmond, patients and staff are treated to a new rendition of “Hail to the Redskins,” the fight song for the Burgundy and Gold.
Carl Washington may not be a professional vocalist but his love for the Redskins is evident the minute he enters the room. He wears a vintage Redskins hat and a glove with the team’s logo on his right hand. His left hand is covered by fullback Darrel Young’s Nike glove, worn in practice during training camp this summer.
Washington, a 73-year-old Marine Corps veteran that served in the Far East, became blind during his active duty role as an aircraft mechanic. He later developed gangrene in his foot and had to have his leg amputated.
“I got a little banged up in Japan and ended up getting treatment in D.C,” said Washington. “I had one good eye and one good leg so I decided to stay up there. I said to myself, why would I root for Chicago or New York when I’m in the nation’s capital? So I started rooting for the Redskins.”
Today, Washington resides at the VA hospital permanently. The Community Living Center is a nursing home designed specifically for veterans. Patients can decorate their rooms and have frequent visitors. There is a bowling alley, retro diner, and other amenities on site.
“I’ve adjusted well,” he said. “I like it here.”
Washington’s disability has prevented him from ever watching a Redskins’ game. He didn’t get the chance to see Robert Griffin III dash 76 yards for a touchdown against the Vikings last season. And he missed Santana Moss catch two late touchdown passes from Mark Brunell to propel the Redskins over the Cowboys in 2005.
Yet he can still recap each game in its entirety and feels that sports are a vital part of his rehabilitation.
“I listen to all of the games on the television”, said Washington. “I use it for therapy. I can truly feel it through my body. It’s not day dreaming, it’s just a feeling.”
On August 16th, the Redskins broke their three-week long training camp that was held just a few miles from the VA hospital, and their biggest fan made sure to catch some action while they were in town. Washington’s prosthetic leg is covered with autographs from players.
“I went to practice twice,” said Washington.” I can’t see at all, just yellow and blue lines, but just the thrill, man. “I’m sitting on some soil that the Redskins are practicing on. That was amazing.”
On Monday night, the Redskins will make their much anticipated season debut against the Philadelphia Eagles on national television.
But in a hospital bed in Richmond, Washington will have just finished his weekly game of bingo, a Monday tradition. He will go into his room and turn the television set up. And while the rest of America is watching, he will be listening.
“I hope I can sing my newest version after the game,” said Washington. “Hail to the Redskins, Hail old D.C., Hail to the Redskins, Hail to RG3.”