On the ice again Wednesday night, Michael Brattole lifted his #28 jersey up proudly.
After many surgeries, the shrapnel from the grenade was removed from his legs, heart and arms.
At Warinanco Skate Rink in Roselle, Brattole and other players, spectators and Arthur L. Johnson high school alums gathered for the 20th annual Alumni hockey game. Brattole was honored as part of this year's event, and his #28 jersey officially retired.
“I couldn’t wait to play," Brattole told Patch. "Honestly, I was more excited about this than Christmas."
Eric Mason, the president of the Johnson Ice Hockey Parents Association, said he received help from other members to get this event together. Mason explained that members of the association, community, and members of the past and present ALJ hockey team wanted to have this event last year, but due to a snowstorm it had to be rescheduled.
“It’s a great event that is long overdue," Mason told Patch. "It comes so close to home. He is so deserving to have his jersey retired. He is a true hero for what he has done."
Mason said that the #28 jersey resembles Brattole’s “hard work and dedication to his fellow teammates and Marines.”
He handed Brattole his jersey as a memento from his fellow teammates. Then, the game began and Brattole had the chance to play with his teammates again.
Michael Brattole’s face beamed as he held his hockey gear. He says he loved everything about the sport and being a part of the team, and he especially enjoyed the Cranford games because all the fans would come out to support the team.
“I’m very proud," said Brattole's mom Jane. "I’m proud of being back at the rink. It brings back a lot of memories."
Brattole is continuing to follow his passion for helping others, attending Kean University and pursuing a career as a firefighter for Linden.