NEW YORK – From his hospital bed, Angelo Anderson could see the wheelchair, the cane and the walker with the tennis balls on the bottom.
He told himself he would ditch them one by one to walk out on his own, after bullets shattered the bones in his upper leg and arm in Afghanistan.
This week, he will do far more than walk at the U.S. Open – just over three years and hundreds of hours of physical therapy since the Navy corpsman was shot. Anderson, 24,will sprint across the court on that titanium rod that runs from his knee to his hip. He will throw the ball to players using that arm reinforced by a titanium plate. He will kneel next to the net on that leg he once couldn’t bend past 45 degrees.
From the stands at the year’s last major tournament, Anderson won’t look much different from any other ballperson, other than that he’s a bit older than many at age 24. Only up close do the deep ripples of scars peek out from his uniform on his right bicep and thigh.
Tattooed on his leg is the date of his injury in Roman numerals. On his arm, the signature of the surgeon who gave him a chance to run and throw again.
Anderson was out on patrol on July 2, 2010 in Afghanistan and talking to some local villagers when he heard the first three-round burst of the AK-47.
He fell to the ground, some equipment digging into his throat. Anderson tried to reach to pull it away; his arm felt as though it was moving, but when he looked down at it, it was motionless, twisted in an awkward position.
He lay there as still as possible to not draw any attention and more bullets. For a half-hour he was there, until Marines reached him.
Anderson had been struck by two bullets. One shattered the femur in his right leg, the other the humerus in his right arm.
It was close to four months before he could walk the short distance to physical therapy.
He needed more surgery in January 2011, a small step back so he could make giant leaps forward.
Meanwhile, Anderson heard about the Warrior Games, the competitions for injured service members.
It was at this year’s event in May, after he took part in track and field, that he was recruited by the USTA Military Initiative and invited to try out for the Open.