FORT WORTH, Texas (Army News Service, Jan. 2, 2008) - While most of the country prepared to ring in the New Year, a record crowd of almost 41,000 filled Amon G. Carter Stadium Dec. 31 to watch the Air Force Falcons battle the UC-Berkeley Golden Bears in the 5th edition of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.

Air Force dominated the first half with three unanswered touchdowns. But California rallied under the leadership of freshman quarterback Kevin Riley to defeat the Falcons 42 to 36 in a wild and entertaining game.

The action on the field, though, was merely the capstone to a multi-day event devoted to honoring the men and women who have and will serve their nation as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

Attendees got an opportunity to fly simulated Navy fighter aircraft, steer a Coast Guard cutter, try on Army gear or challenge a Marine to a pull-up competition in the Armed Forces Adventure area. (FYI - The smart money was on the Marines.)

As game time approached, fans were treated to a parachute demonstration by the Air Force Academy's parachute team "Wings of Blue" and flyovers by Army and Marine combat helicopters and an Air Force B-2 bomber. Throughout the game, each branch was honored and recognized with military bands playing their respective official songs.

The highlight of the game's halftime festivities was the presentation of the Great American Patriot Award to Secretary of the Army Pete Geren.

"For the past three decades, Secretary Geren has been involved with Armed Forces-related activities as a U. S. Congressman and Department of Defense employee," said Jim Breen, chairman of the bowl's military affairs committee. "In honoring him, we recognize his leadership and congratulate him on his service to our country."

Immediately after receiving his award, Secretary Geren administered the oath of enlistment to 100 recruits representing all branches of the military.

Among the 40 Soldiers sworn-in by the secretary was future Army biochemical operations specialist Analuisa Vrducco, 17, from Dallas. Vrducco, who leaves for basic training this summer, was somewhat overwhelmed by her opportunity to take the oath from Geren in person. "This meant everything to me," she said.

After shaking hands with the recruits, Secretary Geren noted that "...it's always inspiring to see fine young men and women step up and join our military."

Looking ahead, Secretary Geren thanked the troops serving around the world and wished them and their families a Happy New Year in 2008.

"Because of you, we are a nation that lives in freedom, cherishing the liberties you give to us through your efforts and sacrifice."

(Lt. Col. William Thurmond is the public affairs officer for the Army Air Force Exchange Service.)

Page last updated Wed January 2nd, 2008 at 13:15