MILWAUKEE -- A pair of VIPs joined the Brewers' traveling party Thursday, as combat veterans Brian Schultz and Shane Kruchten began an all-access experience during the team's weekend road trip to Washington, D.C.
They are guests of general manager Doug Melvin and his wife, Ellen, who also made a financial donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. The organization provides services for injured military veterans and has drawn support from a number of Brewers players, including All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
"If you look back and think about it, some of the most exciting years of your life are from ages 18-30," Melvin said. "We've got a couple Wounded Warriors from Wisconsin here that gave up some of the most important years of their life to serve for their country. Shane signed up at age 17.
"What I thought is to give them the opportunity to share an experience that can stay with them for what they did serving our country in the prime years of their life."
Schultz, of Wisconsin Dells, and Kruchten, from Oshkosh, each described themselves as big Brewers fans. They had lockers at Miller Park for the team's voluntary workout on Thursday, and will be in uniform this weekend in Washington.
Kruchten's father was one of the welders who helped build Miller Park.
"I think walking into the locker room it was like I was a five-year-old kid getting candy for the first time," he said. "I started sweating because I was so nervous."
"It's just surreal," Schultz said.
The trip will include a visit to the White House on Saturday, and all three games.
Kruchten was a high school wrestler before enlisting in the Marines and heading into combat in Iraq. He was medically discharged in 2005 with post-traumatic stress disorder, and has put his life back together by immersing in mixed martial arts. He has tattooed across his back the names of 19 friends who died in combat.
On Friday night at Nationals Park, his own name will be stitched across the back of a Brewers jersey.
"It's nuts to think," Kruchten said. "It's my favorite team, my home state, and now I get to go to the nation's capital with them? Uh, OK. No problem."