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Military & Veterans' Issues

Astronaut Brings Items Flown On International Space Station To Center For The Intrepid

Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio

Credit Eileen Pace
NASA Astronaut Capt. Chris Cassidy speaks with Staff Sgt. (retired) Ben Eberle about the items Cassidy brought back for Eberle from the International Space Station

Soldiers at the Center for the Intrepid took a few minutes away from their physical therapy sessions on Monday to visit with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.

Cassidy brought some items for the soldiers back from his recent duty aboard the International Space Station.

Staff Sgt., retired, Ben Eberle says he’s always been a space junkie, so when the astronaut walked through the hospital ward at BAM-C and asked if anybody wanted to send any items into space, he was on board.

"He came in my hospital room with his whole family - his boys were there, his wife was there," Eberle said. "He did his personal time here, you know, he came down here and asked if I had anything I'd like to go into space. He said, 'Do you have anything small that you want me to bring back? The smaller it is, the more likely it is I can bring it back with me.'"

That was in 2012, and Eberle gave the astronaut one of the patches he was wearing in Afghanistan when he was wounded. Cassidy took the items aboard and even Skyped with some of the wounded warriors, showing the patch, a purple heart and even a t-shirt floating in the weightless environment.

"Well, it's just kind of cool. It's something that most other purple hearts or t-shirts don't get to do," Cassidy said. 

Monday, Cassidy brought Eberle's patch back to BAMC. He says it was something he wanted to do to say thank you to the soldiers.

"Taking pictures of the items, taking videos of them and then giving them back to people and saying, 'Hey, it's not so much the fact that this thing was in space. That's cool, but it's now a special item that represents what you did that's special.' It's just a small way of saying 'thank you,' I guess," Cassidy said. 

Some of the items will be displayed at the Center for the Intrepid. The purple heart was framed and given back to the group, and that patch was returned to Sgt. Eberle.