By Howard Altman
January 30, 2016
Charlie Lemon, center, got to have his wish fulfilled and met Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, left, on Saturday at Gasparilla. HOWARD ALTMAN/STAFFSitting in his wheelchair on the front lawn of the Bayshore Boulevard home owned by Jill and Scott Kelley, Charlie Lemon talks about an item on his bucket list.
“I really want to meet Joe Maddon,” says Lemon, 32, who lost both legs in Iraq in 2011 when an explosive hit the big armored vehicle in which he was riding.
Lemon is one of about a half-dozen veterans — wounded in combat dating back to the Vietnam War — who, along with spouses and significant others, were invited to watch the annual Gasparailla parade from the Kelleys’ lawn.
For Lemon and the other wounded veterans, it was a chance to see an event they otherwise would have to avoid.
“This is my first Gasparilla since I was hurt,” says Lemon. “There’s no way I could come out here otherwise, because it’s impossible to get around these crowds in this chair.”
It was a sentiment shared by Rudy Salas, who was a Marine lance corporal when he lost his left leg in Vietnam.
“Normally I’d stay home,” says Salas, 68.
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Gasparilla Parade of Pirates
Gasparilla celebrations get off to an early start on Davis Island