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Some of the ball boys at this year's US Open are wounded veterans

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Some of the ball boys at this year's US Open are wounded veterans

Watch: Wounded warriors storm the courts as U.S. Open ball boys

You probably don't usually pay much attention to the ball persons at the U.S. Open in New York City. But this year, you should.

That's because a handful of some of the 280 people sprinting across the courts this year are wounded Air Force veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. For a few short weeks, they've opted to drop their guns and pick up tennis balls.

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Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly (left) and Stephen Otero (right) are both wounded veterans. They are using this unique opportunity of being ball persons at the U.S. Open to rehabilitate from their injuries.


They were given the opportunity by Wounded Warriors,  a charity that helps injured veterans, and the United States Tennis Association.

Every year, the groups host the National Wounded Warrior Tennis Camp, which provides "tennis-based rehabilitation to more than 600 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from all the military branches to aid in their physical and emotional recoveries."

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Connelly said he took the opportunity of being a ball boy at the U.S. Open to design his own prosthetic leg. 

"It was the first time I ever made a leg from scratch," Connelly told the Tennis Channel. 


Stephen Otero, also a ball boy the U.S. Open this year, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and attempted suicide in 2010, according to the U.S. Open's official site

The Wounded Warrior tennis trainings, however, helped ease the pain, he said.

"I didn't feel as depressed or as angry or as anxious as I did," he said. "That bond through sport with each other has really carried all of us forward in a positive way."

[Veterans] just want to be able to go the grocery store and be with their kids and be normal.
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly

Once you know about the wounded vets on the court, it may be hard not to notice them -- but Connelly said one of the best parts about being a ball boy is actually not being noticed at all. 

"That's what a lot of veterans want," he said. "They don't want to be noticed for their visible injuries or mental injuries or burns."

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The U.S. Open will conclude on Sunday.

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