WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 19, 2014) -- The Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team played a part in the 239th United States Army Birthday week by honoring Soldiers at their game against the Houston Astros, here, Wednesday.
Before the pre-game ceremonies even began, the United States Army Blues Band "Swamp Romp" performed on the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk, an upper stage of the stadium, as fans poured in for the game.
The United States Army Drill Team demonstrated its disciplined focus in center field before Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno threw out the first pitch of the game. Soon after, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the United States Army Fife and Drum Corps presented the American flag to kick off the pre-game ceremonies.
The national anthem was performed by the United States Army Chorus directed by Capt. Curtis N. Kinzey. Old Guard Soldiers lined the sides of the field, saluting alongside members of the Washington Nationals team. The team's mascot, Screech, stood alongside them as well, dressed in Army fatigues.
The starting eight players on the field featured eight military children of Army service members. One of the eight children, five-year-old Bryce Foster, seemed lost for words to describe his excitement at being down on the field before the game. When asked if he was proud of his mother's military service he very resolutely responded, "Yes."
"I'm really excited," he said.
The game ball was delivered by Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh who expressed his gratitude towards the Nationals.
"The Nationals have been enormously supportive of the men and women in uniform. They do a great job for our members, day in and day out. We owe them a great deal of thanks," McHugh said.
He also explained how the night served as a great addition to the events of Army Birthday week.
"I'm here to take part in, in a small way, the Washington Nationals' night to honor the Army. I think that would be a special occasion no matter the time of year. But obviously, as part of Army Birthday week, it makes it even more so," he said.
When asked if he had any message he wanted to send to the troops he responded, "This week particularly, the 239th birthday, we want to tell them, first of all, how much we continue to value their service, their sacrifice, and all the freedoms that lucky people like me get to enjoy. [These freedoms] were first won by and now preserved by the men and women who put on that Army uniform. God bless them for that, and Army strong."
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III delivered the lineup card during the pre-game ceremonies. He invited several non-commissioned officers to attend the event. When asked why he believed it so important to recognize the great leaders in the Army, he said that they are "truly the backbone of the Army."
"Many of them who we invited are junior NCO's who are really the ones that get things done for our Army," he explained. "I just felt it was important to invite them and show some gratitude for what they do for the Army and the nation."
When asked if he had any messages to the send to the troops overseas he echoed the earlier comments of McHugh.
"First of all, thanks for what you're doing. We never forget where you are and what you're doing. We want you to be safe but also accomplish that mission and get home safely to all the family and the rest of the Army."
Lastly, he again thanked the Washington Nationals "for their hospitality, for their support for the United States Army Soldier and the city of Washington. Thanks for what you're doing because you make us 'Army Strong.'"
The Washington Nationals won against the Houston Astros with a final score of 6-5.
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