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September 7th, 2012
06:32 AM ET

Amputee veteran Ryan McIntosh inspires as ball assistant at US Open

The U.S. Open is coming to a close this weekend. With it has already come the close of American tennis player Andy Roddick’s career. The grand slam winner retired this past week with a memorable farewell after his final match.

But another truly inspirational story comes from the sidelines of the court. Ball assistant Ryan McIntosh is a 23-year-old amputee and ball assistant at the Open this year. McIntosh tells Zoraida Sambolin his story at the U.S. Open on “Early Start” this morning.

McIntosh, who lost his leg in while serving in Afghanistan, says his motivation for getting better was his son Kaden, born just five months after the injury. “And so, that was probably the biggest thing running through my head that I was going to be a dad and it wasn’t going to be the same for me,” McIntosh says. His father helped him cope, especially after one of his painful final surgeries. “My dad held my hand and dealt with that with me,” he says.

The highly athletic Purple Heart recipient was then back into sports only two months afterward. At the advice of an army commander, he tried out to become a U.S. Open ball person. At the tryouts, he was asked if he can throw a tennis ball. He says he responded with, “‘I’ve thrown a hand grenade, so I think I can handle a tennis ball,””

When McIntosh isn’t handling tennis balls for tennis stars like James Blake and Serena Williams, he’s helping wounded veterans become active again as an adaptive sports coordinator. His goal is to teach them they can overcome their injuries and “still do a lot of things.” “That’s what life’s about,” he says, “getting through the hard times and getting to the better times.”

Filed under: Veterans
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