Wounded Warriors receive 'suite' victory from Seattle Seahawks
November 19, 2009
- Fort Lewis Warrior Transition Battalion treated to game, good time in donated suite at Seattle Seahawks' game
SEATTLE - Even though Soldiers from the Fort Lewis Warrior Transition Battalion were wide-eyed and in awe of the Seattle Seahawks players, it was the players who crooned over Spc. Cayle Foidel's camouflaged teddy bear decked out in 'Hawks gear.
He made the bear at the mall to give to a girl, but realized quickly that he could get more out of it by having Seahawk players like Craig Terrill or Adrian Peterson sign it. "The bear will be worth much more to me now - I'm keeping it," Foidel said.
Foidel, along with dozens of other Wounded Warriors, invaded Qwest Field Nov. 8 to watch the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Detroit Lions 32-20, under an unexpected blue sky.
The NFL designated Sunday as Military Appreciation Day, in concert with the upcoming Veteran's Day holiday Nov. 11. But the WTB weren't the only troops present, as all services were represented. Fans were treated to several insights commonly seen in the military: the National Anthem was sung by the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club from Annapolis, Md., and Fort Lewis Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Barnes had the honor of marching the Color Guard carrying the U.S. flag to the center of the field. Prior to the National Anthem, WTB Soldiers had the opportunity to stand along the back of the South end zone and collect autographs, chat with players and fans and dodge warm-up field goal tries by Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare.
Mike Flood, vice president of Community Relations and Special Projects for the Seahawks, said that by packing the stadium full of currently-serving military members, the Seahawks and Seattle community could say thank you for serving. During the National Anthem, more than 50 Fort Lewis Soldiers presented arms in formation on the Detroit Lions' sideline, while Airmen from McChord Air Force Base unfolded a giant American flag in front of more than 60,000 Seahawks fans. "This was an opportunity for us to help those who have given so much," Flood said, a 22-year retired Coast Guard officer, who has donated his season tickets to the WTB so that Wounded Warriors could attend the games. "To me, this is the most meaningful day of the year and the game is second to the (military service members) on the sidelines."
Also showing their appreciation for those who serve was the biopharmaceutical company Amgen, Inc., located in Bothell, Wash. Amgen donated a luxury suite to the WTB, which allowed about 10 injured Soldiers like Staff Sgt. Darren Smith to watch the win. Smith, 30, from Roswell, Ga., was not impressed with how the 'Hawks played in the first quarter. Two quick touchdown passes from Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and a 41-yard field goal by former Washington State Cougar Jason Hanson quickly put the Lions up 17-0. Smith has been a Seahawk fan since 2002, and has known the disappointment of a Seahawks' losing season. In 2006, during Seattle's run to the Super Bowl, Smith was unable to closely follow the team, as he was preparing for a deployment to Iraq while stationed in Germany. That deployment would lead to him getting wounded by an IED outside Baghdad in October 2007, where he suffered multiple fractures to his right femur. He has spent the past two years recovering at the Fort Lewis WTB. "I'm trying to utilize my time by having a successful recovery, going to school and going to Seahawks games," Smith said. "It is indescribable what the WTB does for its Soldiers."
This was his third 'Hawks game, but first in a suite. "We are fortunate to have a company like Amgen that is capable of doing this just for us," he added.
The Seahawks clawed their way back to within four points after Julius Jones scampered in for a 3-yard touchdown and Mare kicked two field goals in the last three minutes before half-time. From kickoff to halftime, Joel Tocker, an Amgen employee, noticed that some of the Midshipmen who sang the National Anthem had stopped by the suite because the stadium was buzzing about a "military-friendly" hang-out location on the Club Level of Qwest Field. "It's great seeing the youngsters from the Naval Academy and the Soldiers enjoying themselves here," Tocker said. The catered suite was positioned on the west side of the stadium near the 30-yard line, and offered the Soldiers a smorgasbord of buffalo wings, chips and salsa, a fully-stocked fridge and, most important - a personal bathroom. "As part of Veteran's Day, we just want to thank the Soldiers who serve us here and abroad," Tocker said.
Seattle completely dominated the second half of the game, outscoring Detroit 19-3. The play of the game came with only 22 seconds left, with Detroit driving, when Stafford threw directly to Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson, who intercepted the pass and returned it untouched 61 yards to seal the victory. Plays like these take 10 times as much work off the field, and that's what inspires Foidel to continue recovering while in the WTB. The Spanaway, Wash., native has been a Seahawks fan since he was a kid. This was also his third game, but he has followed the 'Hawks on television whenever he can. "I love the Seahawks," Foidel said, "because no matter what, they still try hard to win." The persistence put forth by the Seahawks is something Foidel tries to emulate in the Army. He is currently trying to gain 20 pounds to get more "swoll," or stronger at the gym. Athletes provide lots of inspiration to the military - their drive and desire to continue to excel motivates Soldiers to believe they can accomplish anything, Foidel added.
Throughout the game, the WTB Soldiers shared high-fives while remembering about how the 'Hawks had done during this or that deployment. For Smith, more important than the game was the sense of pride he took in receiving cheers from the fans for being a Soldier.
"I had goosebumps, it was so awesome," Smith said. "Those 60,000 fans were cheering for us Soldiers for 20 seconds and while taking it all in, I thought about my buddies who couldn't be here."