Wake Forest, N.C. resident Michael Lusardi controls the Avenger weapon system's turret as his son Trevor, 11, looks on at the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade's static display at the Carolina Hurricane's annual Military Appreciation Night Sunday at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

RALIEGH, N.C. - Nearly 17,000 Carolina Hurricane fans got to see something extra as they waited to enter the RBC Center here for a 5 p.m. game Sunday. Humvees, weapons and armored vehicles from the Army, Marines and Coast Guard as well as booths from other organizations such as the USO and the Military Appreciation Day, Inc. surrounded the south lawn of the coliseum.

The displays, both outside and around the concourse, were part of the Carolina Hurricane's seventh annual military appreciation night. People dressed in Hurricane Red and Black peered inside vehicles, tried out turret controls and learned more about the military's operations. The Soldiers, Marines and other servicemembers there to raise awareness of their missions seemed just as excited as the hockey fans.

"One of my buddies (volunteered) last year, so I was looking forward to this year," said Sgt. Nathan Lueth, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Wake Forest residents Michael Lusardi and son Trevor, 11, enjoyed controlling the Avenger weapon system's turret. "Cool," said Trevor with a big smile.

There were also parachute displays, medical trucks, humvees and an armored security vehicle. Hunter Jeffcoat, 6, and his brother Kyle, 4, were very interested in the ASV's turret inside the vehicle. "Hunter is very military oriented. He always likes things that do with the military," said Russ Barber, the boys' grandfather. Barber is also an Air Force veteran of 26 years.

There was also a military presence inside the RBC center. Besides other military displays, a lot of the fans purchasing food, drinks and getting to their seats were lucky servicemembers, and Family members with free tickets donated by the Hurricanes, including 1,000 tickets for Fort Bragg residents. Special rates for military members were also available.

This marks the seventh season that the Hurricanes have hosted Military Appreciation Night, said Jon Chase, Carolina Hurricanes director of promotions and fan development marketing. "The day allows us to honor all branches of the military and thank individuals from the military whether it be active duty, reserved or retired," he said.

"From the strong military presence during pre-game activities, to the in-game recognition and the thousands of servicemen and women in attendance, military appreciation is always a day to remember. Our servicemen and women deserve our admiration and appreciation and you can not thank them enough."

Sgt. Justin Pratt got the honor of sounding the siren to start the game. The infantry fire team leader from Company C., 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was severely injured during a mortar attack. Pratt was able to recover and rejoin the White Falcons. Many other active-duty military and veterans were honored throughout the game.

The crowd cheered on the Hurricanes with "hooahs" and "hoo-rahs" as the men in red and black beat the Ottawa Senators 4 to 1.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16