Molloy and Wounded Warriors Project team up for the first time

By Nick Crispino

Beautiful weather and successful victories by the Molloy College men's and women's soccer team capped off a special Saturday, as Molloy Athletics honored and recognized our nation's wounded heroes through a partnership with the Wounded Warriors Project (WWP) and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics , on Sept. 27, at the Dean Skelos Sports Complex in Rockville Centre, NY. 

Representatives of WWP, Rafael Rodriguez and Quanjian Yan, became ceremonial team captains, as the Lions hosted Queens College, an East Coast Conference (ECC) rival. Rodriguez captained the men's team to a 1-0 victory over the Knights, while Yan was part of the women's 1-0 win on the day. With the extra motivation to perform for our military veterans, Molloy's sophomore forward Danielle Valente and senior midfielder Hamza Elotmani each scored the game winning goal in the second half of their respected matches.   

"We really appreciate the service they did for our country and it gives us an opportunity to give back to them," said Molloy Director of Athletics Susan Cassidy-Lyke. She also noted through this collaboration, students can see how much we take things for granted while also treasuring the service of our military veterans. According to Cassidy-Lyke, it took seven years for the necessary arrangements to have an event with the WWP.  

The WWP's mission is to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members. Their five core values include, fun, integrity, loyalty, innovation, and service. WWP presently handles more than 50,000 warriors and 7,000 family members through its twenty unique programs and services.

"It's an honor to empower soldiers and for Molloy to get involved is a wonderful thing," said Rodriguez after the game. "It's a unity, with everyone working together to give their soldiers the respect they deserve, it's a great thing." The Bronx native started his career traveling to Honduras in 1988 on a humanitarian mission.  He later served during Desert Storm and on Sept. 11, 2001, he became a first responder to Ground Zero.  Rodriguez was then deployed to Kuwait in 2002 and in 2003, his Army Reserve Unit from New York State was called to war for the first time ever in our military history. He went on to receive a Combat Action Badge for his part in Operation Iraqi Freedom and ended his career doing humanitarian tours that helped provide relief to anyone around the world that was devastated by natural disasters. 

Yan served in the United States Army from 2009 to 2014. He was stationed at Fort Brag where he managed support and high risk assault airborne operations. He provided medical support for high risk training events, check inventory of medical supplies, and was also in charge of the health welfare training of group medics. Both Yan and Rodriguez met at the event for the first time, trading stories of each other's history. Rodriguez was kind of enough to bring in pictures of his tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The pictures included, where he slept every night (in a fuel truck), smoke rising from oil refinery's that were destroyed, and even one of the palaces of former Dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. 

"These guys fight for our freedom and that's what it comes down to," said Head Coach of the men's and women's soccer team, Danny Longo. "Mr. Rodriguez is tremendous and at halftime he made a great speech. I honestly think that's what won the game." Elotmani also spoke about the event, stating, "It's really good to get the win for them, and somebody had to step up and get the goal today."The WWP and Molloy College will be teaming up again during the men's and women's basketball season but a date has not been set yet. The women's and men's next home game is on Oct. 17, against ECC rival, Roberts Wesleyan College.