Wounded get taste of soccer
At the Seattle Sounders match are, from left, Matt Goecks of the ASG and WTB Soldiers Edwin Hurtado, April Miranda and Gustavo Rivera.

SEATTLE - As they soaked up the first year of Seattle Sounders FC soccer in 2009, Glen Mulkey and Matt Goecks began to wonder what it would be like to share that unique experience with wounded warriors.

"Even though we've been around soccer, it's a whole different experience to watch a soccer game in the major leagues," Mulkey said. "You're standing, cheering, singing for ... 90 minutes."

Mulkey, a corpsman at Naval Hospital Bremerton, and Goecks, a specialist with 110th Chemical Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McChord, loved the camaraderie they discovered as members of the Emerald City Supporters, the Seattle team's support group. They even became founding members of the ESC Armed Services Group for current and former military.

Reaching out to the JBLM Warrior Transition Battalion through soccer made perfect sense to the two men. So this year they sought to create a bridge between the Sounders and the WTB.

"Our main thought was to first of all really get this partnership with the Warrior Transition Battalion off the ground," said Mulkey, "introduce as many of these guys as possible to this whole other culture that's out there, a supporters' culture for soccer. It's something that's new to the United States, and, honestly, it's new to a lot of us, as well."

Mulkey worked with the Sounders front office, which set aside free tickets to three matches for three WTB Soldiers and one ASG member who would accompany them. The first WTB group, escorted by Goecks, attended Saturday's home match against Columbus, a 1-1 tie.

"It went awesome," Goecks said. "The (Sounders) front office was absolutely outstanding. All three of (the Soldiers) were talking nonstop on the way back about how impressed they were."

John Holt, a sergeant and squad leader with Alpha Company, WTB, will get his chance on Saturday, when the next group of JBLM wounded warriors travels to Qwest Field to see the Sounders play the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"I'm just really excited to get out there," Holt said. "We've been looking forward to it. I love watching the game, but I don't know anything about it."

Mulkey will be there to help Holt with the details.

"It's someone who can be with them during the game who can explain to them what's going on," said Mulkey of the ASG members who accompany the WTB Soldiers. "Not everyone who goes is necessarily going to be familiar with soccer."

JBLM WTB Soldiers will also attend the June 5 match against the New England Revolution. Prior to that, however, all service members will get the chance to purchase discounted Sounders tickets for the May 22 Military Appreciation Day clash with the San Jose Earthquakes.

Goecks and Mulkey, both Washington natives, hope to build upon the relationship they've started between the Sounders and the WTB.

"I look at this as a win-win for both sides," Goecks said. "We're taking those first ... steps. I only see these steps getting bigger and bigger as time goes on."

Bob Reinert is assistant editor of Joint Base Lewis McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri May 14th, 2010 at 13:59