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Bucs participate in 'Operation Doug' for army sergeant

PITTSBURGH -- Sgt. Doug Vitale, one of the most severely injured members of the U.S. Army's Afghan forces, was a special Tuesday pregame guest as the Pirates participated in "Operation Doug."

Sgt. Vitale and wife Alexis joined Pirates players on the field for pregame batting practice, and later participated in an emotional first-pitch ceremony.

On Sept. 25, 2011, Sgt. Vitale was leading his squad on patrol in Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device), losing both legs above the knee and leading to strokes on both sides of his brain. He has since participated in the Polytrauma Rehabilitation program for brain injuries in Tampa Florida.

The Bucs helped raise awareness for Friday's concert at the North Shore Stage AE to raise funds toward the construction of a "smart home" for Sgt. Vitale and his family, in order to enable them to lead a more independent life. Pirates Charities teamed with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation in that initiative.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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