By Rick Emert, Fort Carson MountaineerFebruary 19, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo.-Soldiers lined up at Fort Carson's USO Feb. 10 to meet and get autographs from Hall of Famers Rick Barry and Rich "Goose" Gossage.
As it turned out, Gossage and Barry are also big fans of the servicemembers.
"I'm a big supporter of our servicepeople," said Barry, a 12-time National Basketball Association all-star who was a league-leader in scoring and free-throw percentage. He played from 1965-1980. "Whenever I see them, I thank them for their service," Barry said.
"I don't care what your politics are. They are willing to put their lives on the line for us. Dislike the war' Fine. Dislike servicemembers' No."
Gossage, who along with Barry resides in Colorado Springs, said the sacrifices
servicemembers and their Families make every day help him see things in a new light.
"Baseball is a silly game," said the legendary Major League Baseball closer who was named to nine all-star teams in his 22-year career. "I've gone to Bosnia and Kosovo, and it has been very gratifying to go and visit our servicemembers in locations where their lives are in danger. It puts things in perspective pretty quick.
"Back in the '70s, when the Vietnam War was going on, if the game pressure started to get to me, our troops fighting over there kept everything in perspective for me," said Gossage.
Barry and Gossage brought signed memorabilia to give away, autographed free posters and photos and also signed uniform shirts with their names and numbers on them that were given away in a raffle.
Barry and Gossage are the latest in a string of celebrities, including Carlos Mencia and Darryl Worley, that have visited Fort Carson troops and families, said Phil Martinez, program manager, Rocky Mountain USO at Fort Carson.
"It's not a hard sell to get celebrities here to meet the troops," he said.
Gossage and Barry took questions from the crowd covering such topics as Barry's famous underhand free-throw style, the latest round of baseball players in the news for steroid use and the future demolition of Yankee Stadium.
The Soldiers said they were thankful the sports legends took the time to visit.
"I really appreciate it; it really means a lot to me," said Staff Sgt. Sebastian Zarasua, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Lt. Col. Gaylene Weber, Division West (First Army) brought her son, Nickolas, to meet Gossage.
"We took (Nickolas) to Yankee Stadium last summer; he's a big baseball fan," Weber said.
"I think it's really great that they came here. These Soldiers ... deserve to be acknowledged for what they do for our country. This is really heartwarming."