CHICAGO -- Friday was a dream come true for Richard Bennett of DeKalb, Ill., who finally got to step on the grass at Wrigley Field.
Bennett, 32, was named the Cubs' representative as one of 30 winners of the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign, sponsored by Major League Baseball and PEOPLE magazine. The campaign was a national initiative that recognizes veterans and military service members and builds upon both organizations' commitment to honoring the nation's heroes.
The Cubs honored Bennett in pregame ceremonies Friday, and he was able to stand with the players for the national anthem.
"I love the Cubs," said Bennett, who has attended more than 300 games, mostly sitting in the left-field bleachers. "I try to come here as much as I can."
Bennett returned from Afghanistan 14 months ago, and he is now a student at Northern Illinois University. He served in the Army's 101st Airborne Division, and during a deployment, his unit came under fire on a daily basis. While on an air assault mission to the Korengal Valley, Bennett ran 35 meters through heavy fire and threw himself on the platoon's fallen medic to shield him from further wounds. Bennett received the Silver Star for his heroics.
On Friday, it was all about baseball and being at Wrigley.
"I love it here," he said.
Bennett and the other winners, who each represent one of the 30 MLB clubs, will be included in All-Star Week festivities in New York. They also will be treated to a private tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a VIP reception on the USS Intrepid, take part in the All-Star Red Carpet Show Presented by Chevrolet, and the Chevrolet Home Run Derby. They will be honored during the pregame ceremony leading up to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field on Tuesday, which will be on FOX beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.