Navy medic shot in Afghanistan becomes U.S. Open ball boy

(CBS News) FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Ball boys are on the front lines of battle. They must be cool under pressure, ready to move into action in a split second.

Angelo Anderson is chasing down tennis balls at the U.S. Open.
Angelo Anderson is chasing down tennis balls at the U.S. Open.
CBS News

And no one has better training for the job than 24-year old Angelo Anderson, who has been spending the last week-and-a-half chasing down tennis balls at the U.S. Open.

He says the experience still makes him nervous, which on one hand makes sense, since it's his first year in this high-pressure job where a stadium full of eyes will see any mistake.

Iraq war veterans open military-themed brewery
Watch: From Sergeant to sous-chef: Program trains veterans in the kitchen
Complete Coverage: Eye on Veterans Affairs

But after what he's been through, it's hard to believe this could make him nervous.

Angelo Anderson's right arm and leg were shattered while he was on patrol in Afghanistan.
Angelo Anderson's right arm and leg were shattered while he was on patrol in Afghanistan.
CBS News

"This here is the entrance wound for the bullet that shattered my humorous," he says, describing his injuries. "It ricocheted up."

In July 2010, the Navy medic was patrolling a village in Afghanistan with a Marine unit he'd been assigned to.

"Once I walked in between the two houses, gunfire rang out, and that was the gunfire that actually hit me," Anderson says.

He says he remembers hearing it vividly. One round ripped through his right arm; another shattered his right leg.

"It was quite a journey," Anderson says of going from taking two rounds in Afghanistan to becoming a U.S. Open ball boy. "It's still actually a process and journey that I take every day."

After multiple surgeries and hundreds of hours of physical therapy, the Purple Heart recipient was participating in the Warrior Games, a competition for wounded service members, when a scout suggested he try out for a ball boy spot the U.S. Open holds for members of the military. The program is called the USTA Military Initiative.

Angelo Anderson
Angelo Anderson
CBS News

Anderson did not know much about tennis. "I knew love meant zero and to never love a tennis player because of that fact. I mean that's all I knew," says Anderson.

He says his presence at the Open speaks to other wounded warriors.

"My purpose here is solely to speak to the heart and the mind and the body of those that think they can't do because of what happened to them," he says.

Anderson says he is on a mission of inspiration.

As much fun as he's been having, Navy Corpsman Angelo Anderson is looking forward to what comes after even more -- when he heads back to Camp Lejeune to train other medics.

Tennis is great, he says, but he's got a job to do.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.