Northwest Indiana native Master Sgt. John Masson's time in the spotlight came after members of the Chicago Blackhawks met him and other injured service members last month at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
A year ago Masson was in final preparation for deployment to Afghanistan, and watching his beloved Blackhawks from a lonely bar and grill near Jacksonville, Fla. He saw them win, went to war in August, and on October 16 was felled by two 60 millimeter mortars, blowing off his legs and his dominant hand. He awoke in a U.S. Army hospital in Germany to a new life.
"Trying to reach for water with my left hand and realizing I don't have a hand there anymore -- I kept telling myself, 'You have to get used to this, you have to get used to this,'" Masson said.
Enduring unimaginable pain, he says he went through a ghostly quiet 12-hour period, and emerged with perspective.
"I prayed all night long, just waiting for the pain to go away and decided at that time, whether this is going to be something to where I am feeling sorry for myself or if I am going to do the best that I can with what is left of me," Masson said.
His smile shows his mindset, and Blackhawks executives heard that story when they met him last month while organizing the championship team's reception with President Barack Obama -- a welcome diversion from the pain of rehabilitation, much like the welcome he received when he came home to northwest Indiana.
"I thought it would be one police car but to have that many it was, oh my goodness, this is for me? And all I could think of, instantly, I thought of all my guys that were still in the field," said Masson, a member of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group.
Blackhawks executives arranged to have the married father of three, a son and grandson of service members, on the ice in uniform during the singing of the national anthem at Sunday night's game.
"It's going to be exhilarating. I just hope as a professional soldier I can hold the salute up enough and not break down and cry too much," Masson said.