FORT STEWART, Ga. - "Today is Georgia Southern University's Military Appreciation Day," said Col. Roger Cloutier, the Third Infantry Division Deputy Commanding General-Maneuver. "They wanted to recognize the sacrifice and service of all of Americas' military personnel. But they did that specifically today by partnering with the 3rd ID."

Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, Ga., hosts a Military Appreciation Day annually, this year partnering with the 3rd Inf. Div. during their home game against Presbyterian College, Oct. 22.

"I think it is awesome that GSU wants to tell the Soldiers' story," Cloutier continued. "They want to talk about the great men and women that are out there serving in harms way every day, their commitment, their courage, and their dedication to service."

One way the university honored the Soldiers was bringing two injured Warriors from Fort Stewart's Warrior Transition Unit onto the field to participate in the coin toss.

Sergeant Christopher Lowe, a forward observer currently attached to the WTU, was injured during combat in Afghanistan in August 2009. Awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star for Valor and Purple Heart, being chosen for the coin toss was more than just a military honor. A student himself of GSU, Lowe said walking onto Paulson Stadium was a personal moment.

"I get to do what 25,000 other students don't get to do," Lowe, a native of Savannah, Ga., said with a smile. "The only worry was I had to make sure the coin landed on the right side."

He then became serious and stated that knowing the community took the time to respect him and all the other Soldiers meant a lot.

"It's nice because they recognize us when so many people don't," he said.

Staff Sgt. Will Steinhauer, a recruiter with the Savannah Co., Jacksonville Battalion, was one of a handful of recruiters present at the game to talk to interested candidates and answer any questions people might have had. But most significantly, the team brought a group of forty future Army Soldiers to walk onto the field during half time and take the Oath of Enlistment.

"We are proud of them and the commitment they are making," Steinhauer said. "So we are letting them make that commitment in front of their local population."

Steinhauer also felt the support from the game attendees.

"I came here from Germany and you don't get a lot of support like this there," he said. "So it's actually really nice to have people shake your hand and say, 'We're proud of you, we appreciate you.' It means a lot, it really does."

GSU students took the time as well to reflect on the day as more than just another football game. Chris Baker, a student and military Family Member, said he appreciates everything that Soldiers do.

"It's really hard on Families as well, even though people don't really understand it," he added. "I salute all the Soldiers and I am even thinking about going into the service after I graduate."

The school went as far as possible to show their respect for the military, and for 3rd Inf. Div. in particular. The members on the football team even wore 3rd Inf. Div. patches on the back of their helmets for the game.

"It gives me a deep sense of pride to see our patch on the back of every GSU helmet, to see our colors out on the field, our video on the screen and to enlist 40 brand new Soldiers," said Cloutier.

But the most moving moment came not from an organized recognition, but the crowd itself, he said.

"What was incredible was on their own, with no prompting from anybody, the entire stadium stood up in silence [during the Oath of Enlistment] out of respect for what those young kids were doing," he said. "I thought that was an incredible honor that they gave those Soldiers and I think it's great that Statesboro and GSU are recognizing their sacrifice and all that they do."

Colonel George Frederick, the most recent professor of military science at GSU and now the Rear Chief of Staff for the 3rd Inf. Div., said that that is one of the greatest things about this local community.

"I live in this community, I know this community, I know the leaders of this university, and I know the people in this community," he explained. "It's not lip service when they say they appreciate the military. They do this annually, and they've been doing this for years. I think if you just walk around here and see the people, you can see the respect. When Col. Cloutier enlisted those Soldiers and the audience stood at the position of attention [out of respect]. That is the kind of people who are here."

Having these appreciation days at the university and within the community help strengthen the military ties and builds a positive impression in everyone's mind, Frederick said.

"It was a recruiting day," he said. "There are younger children sitting in the stands saying, 'that is going to be me one day.'"

Remembering the Fallen, those currently serving, and working toward the future is what these military appreciation days are all about.

"We want to tell our Soldiers' stories and keep our Soldiers in front of the American people," said Cloutier. "So they never forget that we have retirees and people that have served in the past, we have those who are currently serving like me, and those new kids who enlisted today; that's the future."

Page last updated Wed October 26th, 2011 at 00:00