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ON BASEBALL

A gathering of American heroes

WASHINGTON -- He had been on a training mission in the California desert on the night the Red Sox won the World Series, leaving his new bride from South Boston, Gina, and their dog, Teddy Ballgame, to watch the game by themselves on the base in Fort Irwin. So eight hours in an operating room yesterday wasn't going to stop a Milton kid, Philip Dow, not when Gina and his best buddy from BC High, Mike Viano, told him that the Sox were coming by the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

So Dow, 25, asked that his bed be wheeled into the room where the Sox had come directly from a ceremony at the White House, even though it was less than an hour after doctors had finished putting a metal plate and eight screws in his fractured left arm, worked on his fractured left leg and torn-up Achilles' tendon, and treated the shrapnel wounds in his right leg.

"I told the nurses, `You gotta hurry up, let's get this show on the road,' " Dow said.

This was the place where Curt Schilling slipped off the World Series ring he'd won in Arizona and placed it on the good hand of a kid who had part of his right arm blown off. Where Tito Francona sat huddled with another kid who'd been victimized by a suicide bomber. Where Theo Epstein held up the World Series trophy for a double amputee. Where PFC Paul Skarinka -- who had been part of the Whitman, Mass., fire rescue team before he got sent to Iraq and was now undergoing therapy to try to regain the feeling he lost in his left hand and foot after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Sadr City -- sported his Sox cap while talking with Johnny Damon and Billy Mueller and Trot Nixon and the other players who stopped to visit.

"I got beat up real bad," Skarinka said.

Dow, who'd played lacrosse at BC High before becoming a first lieutenant in the 11th Armored Cavalry Second Regiment -- the Black Horse Regiment -- wasn't going to miss this.

"It's such an honor to meet you," catcher Jason Varitek said, leaning over Dow and taking his hand.

"It's an honor to meet you, sir," Dow said.

Larry Lucchino complimented him on his cap. David Ortiz came over and signed a ball. Tim Wakefield was at his side when Dow told his story of what happened that day in Iskandariyah, a town so far from pastoral Milton, a place about 30 miles south of Baghdad.

"I'm a platoon leader," Dow said, "and we were out on patrol. We'd been looking around for a vehicle, and we saw a vehicle parked on the right side of the road.

"The platoon took a short halt, and we all dismounted from our vehicles. As we approached, they blew up their vehicle.

"Fortunately, I was the only one who got hit. I was able to get my guys out of there."

Dow had spotted a man sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle, and when the man did not respond when they called to him, he sensed danger and told his platoon to scatter.

"Right after the vehicle blew," he said, "we sent in an Air Medivac helicopter, but as it was coming down, we got ambushed. It was like they wanted the helicopter to come down so they could shoot the helicopter.

"My platoon did an excellent job. My guys were all able to get me out of there."

This happened Feb. 17, just two weeks ago. "The first night, when I heard what happened," Gina said, "was the worst."

Three out of his four limbs torn up by a booby-trapped vehicle?

"But at least he still has them all," Gina said. "At least that's something."

Dow said that doctors told him it would take six or seven months for him to recover from his wounds.

"Hopefully," Dow said to the Sox players around his bed, "I'll recover in time to get back with my guys."

Major General Kenneth Farmer, the commanding general of the medical center, shook hands with Dow.

"We're all American heroes," he told the group. "We've just been given different roles in life. You [the Sox] bring joy into their lives. They bring freedom and a whole lot of other things to you."

As the Sox prepared to leave, Wakefield returned to Philip Dow's side.

"If I don't get the chance," he said, "I want to thank you for what you've done for us," Wakefield said.

"Thank you," Philip Dow said.

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