The Atlanta Braves honored Army veteran David Sapp of Dawsonville during their July 19 game against the Washington Nationals.
Sapp enlisted in the United States Army in 1988 at the age of 18.
"The Army served a great purpose for me as I had a very successful career," writes Sapp in a brief biography sent to Dawson County News. "My duty assignments consisted of Ft Benning, GA; Ft Campbell, KY; Ft Bragg, NC; Dahlonega, GA; Ft McPherson, GA; Italy; and Germany. My achievements included: Infantryman, Airborne, Ranger, Jumpmaster, Air Assault, and Pathfinder. My awards included: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, and three Army Achievement Medals."
In 2006, Sapp was wounded in a firefight outside of Hit, Iraq. During the skirmish, Sapp sustained gunshots to the left temple, right shoulder and right leg.
"After being wounded, I was left wondering what life would be like with my disabilities," writes Sapp. "My new normal consisted of me being blind in my left eye, a shattered upper right humerus with very limited mobility, a shattered upper right femur, mild traumatic brain injury, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder."
After sustaining these injuries, Sapp and his family moved back to their Dawsonville home, which they had bought during Sapp's time stationed in Dahlonega.
"My wife and I coped with many issues that I had, along with raising two young girls," writes Sapp. "I am thankful that I have such a great wife, as she has remained with me despite these years of frustration and uncertainty."
After retiring from the Army in 2009, Sapp became a stay-at-home dad to his two daughters, Celine and Yelena. This sudden switch from a lifestyle of activity to one of staying at home took its toll on Sapp.
"My depression grew from a lack of purpose and no real sense of direction," Sapp writes. "Since I am not a person that allows obscurities to overcome me, I continued to seek ways to find contentment. Initially, I found this through college. In the spring of 2013, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Business Resource and Technology Management from Troy University. Since then, I’ve sought ways to occupy my time through therapeutic recreation and hobbies that fulfill my desires mentally and physically. These hobbies consist of Deer hunting, fishing, snowboarding, cycling, whitewater kayaking, and gardening."
Sapp also discovered another way to find fulfillment — veteran outreach and service with Team River Runner, a nonprofit that hosts weekly paddling excursions across the country for disabled veterans.
"Although initially, I wanted a fulfilling, fun adventure, my expectations were far surpassed as I had no idea I was going to be put in a kayak and strapped down with a skirt," writes Sapp. "The unexpected undertaking has been thrilling and exhilarating to say the least. I am so happy to have had such an opportunity and even better that it is continuous and ongoing. Now that I’ve had this training as a participant, it has allowed me to transition into a volunteer and ultimately become the president of Team River Runner Atlanta. This has allowed me to assist other veterans alike so that they can enjoy the same experiences that I have had."
"We have struggled at times, but considering everything we have gone through, we are all doing very well and have so much to be thankful for," wrote Sapp. "I currently still serve the role as a stay at home dad, but I also have inherited new responsibilities as the president of Team River Runner Atlanta. It is one of my top priorities to continue to be a soldier for life and follow Team River Runner’s motto, 'Helping Our Wounded Veterans on the River to Recovery.'"
Sapp was nominated as an Atlanta Braves Hometown Hero by fellow veteran Gary McBride.
In his email to the Braves organization, McBride says "[w]hat makes First Sergeant Sapp so very exceptional is that in spite on his disabilities, he continues to both lead others and inspire everyone around him. Simply put, he is the very best of us and is known as a 'hero's hero.' He's both humble and compassionate and cares deeply about the needs of others and always puts the needs of others above those of himself."
"When I was a kid, I used to watch the Braves with my grandparents," Sapp told Dawson County News in a phone interview on his way to the Braves game. "To be able to have them honor me is something special to me, and I hope my grandparents can watch over me and see it, because it would mean a lot to them too."
Sapp brought home a victory, as the Braves rallied to defeat the Nationals 4-3.