The United States Tennis Association hosted the seventh annual U.S. Open Military Appreciation Day Monday at the 2018 U.S. Open in Flushing, New York.
Department of Defense service members and veterans were honored and recognized for their sacrifice, bravery and courage in the line of duty, throughout the day's festivities.
However, it was a mutual exchange of service and recognition as the U.S. Military Academy's Tennis team hosted a youth camp for several children throughout the community Aug. 25.
Army West Point Men's Tennis team Head Coach James Poling and the USMA Men's Tennis team put on several drills for the children to emphasize the importance of the moral and physical lessons learned through sports.
"Learning to perform under stressful conditions, tolerating pain and discomfort to work toward common goals, learning to work together as a team, learning to be objective in identifying weakness in your game and improving them," Poling said of what he hoped children learned from the camp.
This occasion was only the beginning, as a full military tribute took place on Labor Day during the official opening ceremonies at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Master Sgt. Mary Kay Messenger, a soloist from the USMA Band, sang the National Anthem while the USMA Color Guard led by Staff Sgt. Rodney Bevard presented our nation's flag to a crowd of approximately 24,000 spectators.
USMA First Captain David Bindon said he was grateful for the opportunity and that it was a humbling experience.
"I am thankful for the U.S. Tennis Association for hosting us, and allowing us to participate in celebrating the world's greatest team, the United States Military, and the life of a great leader and human, Arthur Ashe," Bindon said. "Arthur Ashe is a model for all leaders, military and civilians alike. He led by example, breaking barriers in every facet of his life during some very trying times in U.S. history.
"Through his example, he brought awareness for a number of topics throughout his life--racial integration in tennis, which he continued to bring awareness for as a coach at West Point during his tenure in the Army, as well as the battle against (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)," he said. "Through his well-known athletic ability, Arthur Ashe became an impactful leader and humanitarian because he gave a voice to those who did not have a strong one."
Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the 60th Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Poling watched on as Bindon flipped the ceremonial coin toss for the Round of 16. The match between No. 22 seed Maria Sharapova and No. 24 seed Carla Suarez Navarro ended as Navarro took a 6-4, 6-3 straight sets victory over Sharapova to move into the quarterfinals.
A certificate of appreciation and a U.S. flag that was flown over USMA were presented to U.S. Marine veteran Johnnie Ashe, the younger brother of 1968 U.S. Open champion Arthur Ashe, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Open and his brother's win. It is widely believed that win was due in part to Johnnie Ashe's noble sacrifice during the Vietnam War, where he volunteered for a second tour of duty in place of his brother.
"I (did not) want my brother Arthur Ashe to deal with this,'" Johnnie Ashe recalled of the meeting with his superiors. "I knew the rules --you couldn't have two surviving sons from the same family in Vietnam at the same time."
The sacrifice for selfless service by the Ashe brothers to country is one that requires physical and emotional courage.
"He (Arthur Ashe) was a champion for the civil rights movement both at home and abroad," Poling said.
These are attributes that embody most troops, especially our wounded warriors.
In conjunction with the Wounded Warrior Project, the U.S. Open also honored three Wounded Warriors from the U.S. Army: Buddy Mayes, Bill Hannigan and David Christopher.
It is events like this one that allow the U.S. Military to stay connected with the American public. According to the Pew Research Center analysis of DOD data, less than 1 percent of Americans actually serve in the active-duty military.
The activities will wrap up Saturday and Sunday when the U.S. Corps of Cadets will present a garrison size U.S. flag to the crowd in honor of the Men's and Women's U.S. Open finals.