ORLANDO, Fla. - Nearly 300 Soldiers and airmen from the Florida National Guard cheered the Orlando Magic during its Friday game at the Amway Arena during the team's 'Seats for Soldiers' night. Members from all other branches of the military were also present during this night of exclusive recognition for those supporting the Global War on Terrorism.

"This is the second time the Orlando Magic recognizes the military community in the surrounding area,"
said Staff Sgt. Orlando Boyer from C Battery, 1-265th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) based in Daytona, and military liaison for the event.

National Guard Soldiers participated in several events throughout the game including a 'high five line up', a kid's tunnel, on-court recognition for a deployed and a returning Soldier and a surprise videoconference call. The program also included a presentation of jerseys for service members representing all branches of the military and the unfolding of a gigantic American flag during a singing performance during half time.

Spc. Eric G. Haworth, from C Battery, 1-265th ADA received a farewell from the Magic team prior to his impending mission overseas in support of the GWOT, while Sgt. Richard Chamberlain, also from C Battery, was welcomed after a year-long deployment to Iraq. Chamberlain was the Soldier the team bid farewell to during last year's 'Seats for Soldiers' event. The Magic hopes to hail Haworth's return next year, said Boyer.

Another 'Seats for Soldiers' highlight occurred at the end of the first quarter, when Alma Anderson was approached by the Magic Live game host and asked to look at the Jumbo-tron above. Her husband, Spc. Ryan Anderson, came on, live from Iraq. Alma went to enjoy the game with her 16-month old daughter Isabel, unaware that a video call with her husband was part of the night's schedule.

"I was in shock," said Anderson. "I didn't know what to say. I didn't know they could do something like this."

The team faced the Atlanta Hawks, dribbling them the win by three points for a final score of 90-93. But the loss didn't matter to Boyer. "I was very disappointed the Magic let the Hawks come back and win the game, but that did not make the event any less enjoyable."

According to Boyer, the Orlando Magic plans to continue hosting an annual 'Seats for Soldiers' night.

"The way the Orlando Magic treated all of the military and family members was excellent. We couldn't have asked for a more outstanding evening. Every event gets better and better," said Boyer.

The Florida National Guard currently has more than 800 members deployed, and since September 11, 2001 more than 8,000 of its Soldiers and Airmen have served in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

The Orlando Magic has joined several civilian and private organizations throughout the Sunshine state in honoring those who have served in this ongoing endeavor.

Page last updated Wed January 31st, 2007 at 17:10