LSU salutes Soldiers
Staff Sgt. Anthony Valdez, Baton Rouge Company, and his son receive cheers from the crowd a home game of the Louisiana State University Tiger Baseball team in Baton Rouge, La. LSU Salutes is a program to honor Soldiers around the city at each home game for their service.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Baton Rouge Recruiting Battalion Soldiers were honored during each home game by the Louisiana State University baseball players and fans at Alex Box Stadium for the second year.

LSU head baseball coach, Paul Mainieri, instituted the LSU Salutes program in 2009 to honor military - past and present - keeping the contributions of the military top of mind for his players and the fans.

"We know we could not do things we do, like enjoy college baseball games as spectators or participants, if not for the heroic deeds of these brave men and women. They are the ones that put it all on the line so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we get to experience," said Mainieri. "We must never forget that the military makes it all possible, and we want the members of the military to know how much they are loved on our campus."

For Mainieri the traditions and sacrifice hit close to home. His sister was a nurse in the Air Force and his brother served in the Coast Guard. His father was a Soldier during the Korean War and his late uncle was a bombardier during World War II. His uncle is buried in the Washington National Cemetery.

From 1989 to 1994, Maineri was the head coach for the Air Force Academy baseball team. This influenced his decision to bring this program to LSU.

"I listened to the stories of the veterans; and I watched the military training of the young men who also played baseball for my teams. I felt an enormous responsibility in my job there to be a part of the training of those young men to become warriors and winners," he said. "Many of my former players are now pilots in the greatest Air Force in the world. I think about them, and pray for them, every day. I also sleep well at night knowing that they are out there as the custodians of our way of life. I am also proud that I have had my first player pin on to be a general, Brigadier General Pete Gersten. He was a catcher on my first team at USAFA."

This season, Baton Rouge Company Soldiers have experienced the cheers and thanks of the LSU fans and players every game and into the post season.

For the first game of the season, Staff Sgt. Jason Manwarren received the honors.

"It was such a rewarding experience to walk onto the field and be supported by the community and staff of LSU," said Manwarren. "The recognition I received was overwhelming for my family and me. I was truly honored to take part in such a great event such as this."

Lt. Col. Doug Reynolds, Baton Rouge Battalion commander, was honored at the LSU vs. South Carolina game in April. Reynolds graduated from South Carolina and received his master's degree from LSU. He was honored alongside a Soldier from World War II.

"As the leader of this battalion, I appreciate the applause and recognition that the audience shared," said Reynolds. "I take it as recognition for all Soldiers and not solely for myself. I serve as a representative for those that can't be there, such as my brother David in Afghanistan."

Mainieri is motivated to continue this program for the upcoming seasons.

"We must never forget the ones that gave the ultimate sacrifice for those of us that do not fight for ourselves. Fortunately, the ones we recognize at our games have not had to make the ultimate sacrifice. However, that does not diminish the fact that they have been away from their families and been in harm's way," said Mainieri. "Their courage and unselfishness is inspirational to us all. I just want them to know how much they are appreciated for what they do for all of us."

"Events like this are wonderful for helping Soldiers connect with the community and serve as a platform for recognizing our Soldiers tremendous efforts and their daily selfless service to our great nation," said Reynolds.

Page last updated Tue July 16th, 2013 at 15:36