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Little Leaguers Sport a Patch for Terrorist Victims

Heroism was in the air as Jamie Spencer, 9, sat in the dugout talking shop to Sgt. Christopher Braman before being called out on the field for some inspirational words on opening day for the Springfield Little League. Both were medal winners for acts of heroism the past year.

Last summer, Jamie saved a 3-year-old from drowning in a pool in Saratoga, and Braman pulled four people out of the burning Pentagon on Sept. 11.

"The lifeguard was panicked, I just held him up," said Jamie, who was awarded the Medal of Merit by Springfield Boy Scout Troop 1892.

Braman was awarded the Purple Heart and the Soldiers Medal for his actions at the Pentagon. He is a cook in the Airborne Rangers and was stationed at the Pentagon. At the end of the day on Sept. 11, he was hospitalized with chemical pneumonia from the smoke he inhaled.

"When the plane hit, I was safe. I went back in. I have no regrets," he said.

The Little Leaguers were not only marking the beginning of their season, they also are commemorating a new addition to their uniforms in honor of the victims of Sept. 11. A small patch was sewn on every sleeve. Spencer was proud to show his patch off.

"It makes me feel proud to wear this," he said.

Springfield mother Mitzi Olerta was one of the driving forces behind the patch. She was contacted by the Little League of America. Her sons Stephen, 8, and Michael, 11, play in the League.

"When the Little League said they were going to do this, we jumped at the chance. To recognize how important it is to have hometown heroes, we jumped on it 100 percent. I think they will never forget this," she said.

Cory Spera was one of the banner-holders for his team, the Tigers. He plays shortstop and pitcher.

"It feels like we're important," he said with his patch.

Joshua Wood thought it would influence his concentration on the field.

"I'm going to think about trying to hit the ball on the barrel of the bat, and hit a line drive," he said.

Tyler Basse plays second base for the Tigers. He helped carry the banner as well, but he remembered one hero who won't be playing this year, Cal Ripken Jr., who retired from the Baltimore Orioles last fall.

"I didn't want him to retire," Basse said.

The teams gathered on the field at Trailside Park on Friday evening, April 5, for their moment in the spotlight. Braman addressed the crowd with some memories of his actions on Sept. 11.

"As soon as I hung up the phone, I was thrown forward. I just did what my parents taught me, do the right thing. I ripped my undershirt off and went back in. One lady was covered with ash, and her clothes were melted to her. At that moment the building collapsed," he said.

Braman stayed throughout the ordeal, going back in and recovering bodies. He brought out 63 bodies all together.

"That Friday, I was diagnosed with chemical pneumonia," he said.

Now Braman travels with the Defend America program around the country, giving inspirational speeches about his ordeal. He credited parents all over the country.

"The real hero is the parent, to bring that kid up so he can have a smile on his face," he said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11th) was at the ceremony.

"Sept. 11 will not be forgotten, it's the day the world changed for a lot of us. It's important to not just remember the day but what happened to America," he said.

Spencer Macintire, 9, also talked of the patch on his sleeve. He played last year as well but felt there was a difference this year.

"It represents the United States more. Before, the shirt was just the sponsor of your team," he said.