When U.S. Army veteran Ben Manthe brings his Frontline Professional Wrestling show to Naval Station Great Lakes' 4th of July Celebration, he hopes to enliven active duty military and veterans' spirits while realizing his own dreams.
Frontline Professional Wrestling has five shows scheduled over three days, including a 6:30 p.m. show July 2 (Military Night), 4:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. July 3 and 4 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. July 4. The ring will be on the south side of the Ross Field festival grounds near Fisher Road and admission is free on July 2 but only people with installation access are invited. On July 3-4 the admission fee per person is $2 for general admission, and $5 for ringside, which includes full access to the wrestlers both before and after the show.
Before joining the Army in 2010, the 35-year-old Kenosha resident was wrestling on the independent circuit for the Green Bay, Wis.-based Wisconsin Professional Wrestling. Inspired by his heroes, like Brett "The Hit Man" Hart and Hulk Hogan, and their performances at the World Wrestling Entertainment megashows, known as WrestleMania, Manthe took up the sport. From 2005-10, he spent time learning the ins and outs of professional wrestling with WPW and while training with Brew City Wrestling from the Milwaukee area. But, he wasn't satisfied with his career, so he enlisted in the Army. That's when his life got interesting.
Manthe, who was in the Army from 2010-13, was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division. In August 2011, while stationed in Afghanistan, he was hit by a sniper's bullet. In a fortunate twist of fate, the bullet was shaved a certain way so while it hit him in the face, it lodged in his jaw instead of rotating and causing as fatal wound.
To date, he has had 14 facial reconstruction procedures. But once those procedures were finished, he needed to find something to do. As part of the healing process, Manthe has seen specialists in five medical areas, including mental health. But he was getting the itch to do something.
"My wife told me that I had been home for a month and a half and that I hadn't gone out," he said. "She looked at me and said I needed to get out of the house—that I was driving her crazy."
To his surprise, the doctors OK'd the return to professional-style wrestling.
"In December 2014 I talked with my doctors about it," he said. "Things like baseball, football and MMA-style fighting were out because of the danger they presented. Then we started talking about wrestling. The doctor asked "That is a controlled-environment, right?'"
"After I told him it was, he said it was something I could participate in," Manthe said. "He was just the beginning. I got the OK from other doictors, and I've had a number of doctors help me."
Manthe plans to use his love of the professional sport as a way to raise money and attention for some of the physical and emotional problems they face once they return. Among the events on his calendar, his show did benefit performance for a California-based veterans foundation.
"We are a fraternity (veterans) and we have to look after each other," Manthe said. "And it is important that we recognize and help each other every day, not just one or two holidays a year."
And making sure every veteran who needs help gets it would fulfill another dream.