By Marine Lance Cpl. Bryan G. CarfreyJanuary 2, 2009
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The sixth annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl football game featured the Houston Cougars (7-5) taking on the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons (8-4) on Dec. 31 at the Amon G. Carter Stadium here.
Kickoff for the Armed Forces Bowl was noon Eastern, but the event started more than 24-hours prior to the kickoff when both teams were welcomed to Fort Worth with a luncheon at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Dec. 30. Retired Army Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, who survived severe injuries following a road-side bomb attack while deployed to Iraq, was the keynote speaker. Colonel Gadson was credited by the New York Giants football team for giving them the inspiration to turn their 0-2 season start into a Superbowl-winning season.
Outside the stadium, home of Texas Christian University's Horned Frogs, there was an "Adventure Zone" set up featuring almost 60 displays of military might from all the armed services.
"My son loves all the guns and tanks and we've had a really good time; it is wonderful here," said Ali Rattan, one of the spectators of the Adventure Zone on Dec. 30.
"A lot of people are coming out to see what the different services have to offer, and we get to put on display some of the equipment they have never seen before," said Marine Cpl. John Luis, an artillery canoneer. "They get to ask a lot of questions and we get to interact with them, it's really an awesome event."
The day's events was closed out by a pep rally for both teams culminating in a 10-minute fireworks display.
Prior to the game start on Dec. 31, pre-game festivities included a skydiving demonstration by a combined team of different types of Army paratroopers, and an Air Force flyover that included two F-16 Fighting Falcons and a B-52 Stratofortress. Army Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Central Command commander, flanked by all of the senior service representatives, performed the coin toss.
"It just makes me absolutely proud to be here, it's a phenomenal event," said Army Maj. Gen. Peter M. Vangjel, commanding general of the United States Fires Center and Fort Sill, Okla., who was the senior Army official at the game. "It's nice to stop and think about all the folks in the armed forces, the impact we have on the nation, and to celebrate together with all the other services."
More than 40,000 tickets sold for the bowl game.
"It's a terrific opportunity, and not just for the Air Force, said Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz. "We are representing the entire joint team -- Army, Navy, certainly the Air Force, and the Marines."
The halftime ceremonies included General Petraeus receiving the Great American Patriot of the Year Award from Tom Dials, chief executive officer of Armed Forces Insurance, and an oath of enlistment ceremony officiated by General Patraeus for more than 100 future servicemembers from all branches of service. The Air Force Academy's Wings of Blue parachute team ended the ceremony with their aerial demonstration.
During each quarter of the game, Armed Forces Bowl officials also spotlighted a different branch of service by running public service announcements on the "Jumbotron."
For the bowl game itself, Air Force lost to Houston, 34-28.