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  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Steve Bracci puts on a shin guard before the start of a baseball game he umpired at Alvirne High School, Wednesday. Bracci is participating in a fundraising walk called "Walk/Run to Home Base" which starts and finishes at Fenway Park and raises money for soldiers coming home from deployment. The fundraiser ends at home plate at Fenway Park.
  • Cpl. Kent "Frank" Salenger, 21, of Nashua, currently serving in the U.S. Marine Corp. in Aghanistan (Courtesy photo)
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Steve Bracci grabs his mask from his car while getting ready to umpire a baseball game at Alvirne High School, Wednesday. Bracci is participating in a fundraising walk called "Walk/Run to Home Base" which starts and finishes at Fenway Park and raises money for soldiers coming home from deployment. The fundraiser ends at home plate at Fenway Park.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Steve Bracci pulls his Umpire's jacket over his head before before umpiring a baseball game at Alvirne High School, Wednesday. Bracci is participating in a fundraising walk called "Walk/Run to Home Base" which starts and finishes at Fenway Park and raises money for soldiers coming home from deployment. The fundraiser ends at home plate at Fenway Park.
Thursday, April 5, 2012

Nashua man to walk for friend, a Marine, at Fenway event

As baseball fans turn their eyes toward Major League stadiums for opening day, Nashua resident Steve Bracci is counting down the weeks until his dance at Fenway Park.

Bracci, a local high school umpire and football official, will get to walk across Fenway’s home plate in May as part of New Balance’s 2012 Run-Walk to Home Base.

Coincidentally, Bracci, a diehard Red Sox fan and father of five, will get to grace the heart of Boston’s beloved ballpark during its 100th anniversary.

Even better, he’ll get to do it while supporting another Nashua native and family friend, Cpl. Kent “Frank” Salenger, 21, a Marine currently serving his second tour in Afghanistan.

“I’m doing it as a tribute to Frank, but not just to him, to all soldiers returning, to thank them for what they do for us,” Bracci said. “It’s something I think about quite often. I just hope and pray (Frank) gets back safe.”

The Run-Walk to Home Base honors veterans by raising funds for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program.

The event benefits clinical care for combat stress or traumatic brain injuries and provides services and counseling for wounded veterans’ families. Funds also go toward researching treatment and prevention for injuries troops sustain while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bracci works for the Department of Veterans Affairs and signed up to walk because he wanted to support soldiers returning from war beyond what he does in his day-to-day job.

Salenger, a Nashua High School South graduate, has been like a brother to Bracci’s son Tristan since they were in middle school, he said.

According to stepmother Donna Salenger, her son Frank joined the Marines a week out of high school, serving a 183-day tour before heading out on his second tour near Kabul this past November.

Bracci will do the Run-Walk to Home Base’s 3-mile route that begins and ends at Fenway Park and loops through Beantown in between.

To participate, he had to commit to raising $1,000 for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, but Bracci said he wants to shoot higher than that.

According to his fundraising website, Bracci is already up to $940 in funds raised with more than a month to go to reach his $1,200 goal.

The 2012 Run-Walk to Home Base takes place May 20. Some 3,000 runners and walkers are expected to participate, including 500 active-duty military members, according to the event website.

“One of the things I do know from working for the VA is two of, if not the most, prominent issues that veterans or soldiers face as they return from war is post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury,” Bracci said. “Coupled with support for the families of soldiers returning from war … I thought this really hit on the major issues that veterans face as they return home and are trying to get things back to normal.”

For Donna Salenger, the walk and the causes involved hit close to home.

“(Frank) seems a little more quiet at times when he’s home,” Salenger said. “He’s a very outgoing kid, and there’s time when he seems very quiet or would rather go on a run.”

“We don’t push him to talk about anything,” she added. “We just go about our business like it’s every day. We let him talk about it if he wants to talk about it. We’re not there. We don’t know what he’s going through and how he’s feeling. People say, ‘Well, I understand,’ but no, we really don’t.”

When Bracci emailed Salenger to be able to walk in Frank’s honor, Salenger said the whole family was touched.

“I wish I could do it with him,” Salenger said. “I was extremely pleased.”

Salenger said her stepson is due home in July, but she and her husband are always hoping for the word to stop sending more letters.

That will mean Frank is due home sooner.

“It does go by fast for us. We try to go on with our every day lives,” Donna Salenger said.

For Bracci, while he and his family also await Frank’s return, the time can’t come soon enough for him to step across Fenway’s famous home plate.

“I’m a huge Red Sox fan, so it’s kind of an all-for-one thing here,” Bracci said. “I’m very excited. … It’s a unique twist.”

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, Follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).