Attending a University of Montana football game was the last thing on Bo Reichenbach’s mind last July when he was critically injured by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan.
More than a year later, the 24-year old Navy SEAL and Billings native continues to recover at Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, learning to use his prosthetic legs while fighting off infections.
While the battle toward recovery has been slow, Reichenbach is winning the fight, and this weekend, at least, he’ll get his chance to attend Montana’s season opener against Appalachian State University on Saturday night.
“He’s a Griz fan, and he’s very excited to come out,” said Reichenbach’s father, Don. “I never thought I’d be doing what I am with him. All things considered, it’s all pretty amazing.”
Reichenbach’s road to Washington-Grizzly Stadium and the season opener was a long one.
The Navy SEAL, who is married and the father of a 5-year-old son, was hit by an IED on July 17, 2012 while serving in Afghanistan.
His commanding officer called Reichenbach’s father almost immediately after the detonation. It wasn’t protocol, Don explained, “but he called me and told me Bo was one of his best men, and he owed it to me to tell me.”
It took five days to medivac Reichenbach stateside, and he has remained at Walter Reed for more than a year. His release from the hospital may still be five months away.
But that day will come, and questions have surfaced over where Reichenbach will live and his need for handicap accessible housing. With the backing of Buck Knives, Randy Hayes, founder of America’s Fallen Heroes, spoke with Reichenbach’s family and together they crafted a plan.
Montana, they thought, might be willing to help one of its own. It usually does.
“We reached out to his dad (Don) and we put together a plan with other Montana businesses, and once we felt comfortable, we reached out to the University of Montana and to the Athletic Department, and they said they’d be glad to host him at the game,” Hayes said.
Their fundraising goal this weekend is ambitious. While in Missoula, they hope to raise around $50,000 through small donations and various events planned across the community.
A barbecue is slated for Friday at McCormick Park, thanks to the support of Murdoch’s, Starbucks, Knife River, Triple W Equipment, Cabela’s, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Home Depot, among other local businesses.
Outback Steakhouse is catering Friday’s event, along with the VFW, the American Legion and the Montana Cattlemen’s Association. A donation of $10 is recommended at the event, Hayes said.
On Saturday morning, the American Legion will host an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with a recommended donation of $8. And when the Grizzlies kick off their season on Saturday night, a text message will appear on Griz Vision.
Fans can text the number and make a $10 donation to Reichenbach’s fund, Hayes said.
“All of the proceeds are going into his trust fund to build his family a handicap accessible house,” Hayes said. “We’ll take him to the game on Saturday night, and the SEALS are coming up from San Diego on their own time to parachute into the game.”
Six Navy SEALS plan to make their jump at 6:45 p.m. Kickoff will follow 15 minutes later and Reichenbach will be watching.
“He’s working hard every day to get through his recuperation,” said Don. “There are still some struggles, but he’s getting through it. He can walk in his legs, but when he comes up to Missoula, he won’t be able to.”