Soldiers, wounded warriors honored at Washington Nationals game
June 21, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 21, 2013) -- The Army was honored with a special tribute at a Washington Nationals Major League Baseball game, before a crowd of thousands of cheering sports fans and military supporters, on a seemingly perfect June evening for America's pastime.
With blue skies overhead, the Army Drill Team executed its precision moves as it kicked off the pre-game ceremonies for Army Day at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., June 20.
The Old Guard and the U.S. Army Band participated in the Color Guard, the Army Chorus sang the National Anthem, and an Army Chorus vocalist sang God Bless America.
Seven Soldiers re-enlisted on the field, and Army children, representing the strength and resiliency that military families embody, took up players' positions on the field in the pre-game ceremonies.
Sgt. Maj. David Turnbull, of Joint Force Headquarters - National Capital Region and U.S. Army Military District of Washington, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Lt. Gen. William J. Troy, director of the Army Staff, delivered the game ball to the starting home team pitcher in the matchup with the Colorado Rockies.
"It was a great honor to see the Soldiers re-enlist and get to represent the Army throwing out the first pitch," said Turnbull. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was very proud to represent the United States Army and all the Soldiers who are deployed around the world."
Army Day is a great way for the public to see Soldiers and learn about the Army, said Turnbull. The support from the American people during events such as Army Day, he said, means a tremendous amount to Soldiers and Army families.
Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Stafford Moore was among the Soldiers who re-enlisted on the field. She echoed Turnbull's excitement about Army Day.
"It was such an amazing experience," said Moore. "It's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were able to share it with some of our comrades in front of thousands of military supporters, so who could ask for a better opportunity than that.
"The military has given my family and me so many opportunities and it's just been great that I have another chance to serve and be a part of this great Army team," said Moore, whose husband and young daughter witnessed the re-enlistment.
Injured service members and members of the military are honored every home game at Nationals Park during the "In-Game Military Salute." Additionally, the Washington Nationals' team provides injured service members with complimentary tickets in a premium section at each home game, as a way to show appreciation for their service.
Wounded warrior Sgt. Javier Velazquez, who was injured a year ago in Afghanistan, enjoyed the game, being surrounded by fellow service members and military supporters, and seeing the commitment of Army leadership and the American public in supporting injured members.
"It's awesome. This is the third game I have gone to, and every time I come I get chills," he said. "It's just amazing when the fans turn and wave to you and thank you; it's awesome."
He said such support helps in his healing.
"When all these wounded warriors come over here, we're basically in the same boat and it helps us cope with our symptoms," he said. "When I come here and I have my friends with me, I feel safe and comfortable."
Staff Sgt. Luis Mercado-Rosa, who was injured stateside last year, agrees.
"It has been a really great experience, especially for me since I got to share it with my dad and brother, who came all the way from Puerto Rico to visit," he said.
Mercado-Rosa said the support from the American people and Army leadership is very impressive and it aids his recovery process knowing that people care.
"It shows you that the American people and everyone are behind you; it gives you the strength to continue and heal," he said. "That is a great part of the healing -- support from loved ones and everybody else."
Shawn Bertani, the Washington Nationals senior director for community relations, said military appreciation events, including service branch days, are an important way to reach out to the large military community in the area and recognize the service and sacrifice of military members.
"We want them to be part of our family," she said. "We also want them to know how much we appreciate the service members who serve and the families as well who are sacrificing."
Perhaps all the support and cheering for Soldiers, families and wounded warriors from the nearly 32,000 people in attendance at the game also helped boost the spirit of the Washington Nationals. The team finished with a 5-1 victory. But no matter the score, everyone was a winner at Army Day.