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Mets' Francoeur wants to do more for war veterans

New York Mets players stand with Veteran Thomas

New York Mets players stand with Veteran Thomas Dillon, left, in Forest Hills, NY. (December 16, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday/Photo by Ed Betz

As Thomas Dillon told his life story Wednesday, on a modest couch in a modest home in Queens' Forest Hills, Jeff Francoeur listened and shook his head in frustration.

As a native of Atlanta, he grew up knowing many folks on military bases. He knows how difficult life can be for those who come back from war.

"I think we need to do a much better job," the Mets rightfielder said. "At least this guy can get around. Imagine guys that have no legs, no arms and can't do anything. We kind of put them on the back burner."

The Mets reaffirmed their devotion to this cause Wednesday, and Francoeur and teammates Jonathon Niese, Angel Pagan, Bobby Parnell and Jose Reyes sat in on a session with Dillon, who grew up in Queens' Breezy Point (he knew the now infamous Brian McNamee) and an organization called Veterans Across America.

The Mets have long been interested in helping veterans; last year, chairman Fred Wilpon attended a news conference at Major League Baseball's Manhattan headquarters to promote MLB's involvement with a group called Welcome Back Veterans.

Dillon served about a year in Iraq, and he came home with a broken vertebra, from a mortar attack, and post-traumatic stress disorder, from a "close call" with an improvised explosive device, or IED.

An iron worker, Dillon found himself thrown out of the Local 40 Ironworkers Union because of an administrative error on his part. Since his return home, he has struggled to get regular work, although one of his jobs was helping with concrete and cement in the construction of the new Yankee Stadium.

A lifelong Mets fan, Dillon enjoyed meeting the players, as did his 10-year-old son, Mack. But he was more grateful that the Mets came with people who want to help him get out of a bad spot.

Francoeur vowed to get more ballplayers involved in the cause, and to hook up with Giants pitcher Barry Zito, who has a successful foundation called Strikeouts for Troops.

"For everybody to team up, it would be kind of cool," Francoeur said.

New York Sports