MURRAY STATE UNIVERSITY, Ky. - Under a bright blue sky and the temperature static in the high 40s, family and friends gathered in the stands as over 20 Soldiers of the 101st Sustainment Brigade 'Lifeliners', 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), walked onto Roy Stewart Stadium at Murray State University in Murray, Ky., clutching a large American flag in their arms, Nov. 16.

Murray State University Athletic Director Kevin Saal invited Lifeliners' Soldiers to Murray State, as the two organizations start a new partnership.

Saal coordinated the event with leadership within the university and some leaders from the Lifeliners team. Saal said he got his inspiration for the military appreciation day from his own childhood, where he grew up in Kansas just outside of Fort Riley.

"I grew up just outside of Fort Riley, and I remember celebrating 'Fort Riley Day,' where our local high school band would play and sync up their music with the artillery and the big boom," said Saal. "So when I got the job here at Murray State in March, I thought with Fort Campbell being so close, it would be a great opportunity to try and recreate that amazing experience that I had as a kid."

Saal stated that he was honored to have Col. Stephanie Barton, commander of the 101st Sust. Bde. and all of the Soldiers there come to see the games.

"I think it was a great experience and definitely one we would want to do again and again each year," exclaimed Saal. "There are so many benefits to these visits and partnerships, and I enjoy serving the people that serve our country."

Saal mentioned he had high hopes for future events with Fort Campbell, to include student and ROTC visits to Fort Campbell.

"I would love to have our ROTC Cadets and student athletes interact more with Lifeliners' Soldiers, because I think that the development of people and the process to which that is done in the Army is very similar to the athletics department; and I am intrigued with what each organization has to teach the other and how can we get better," Saal said. "I think it is a relationship that can grow tremendously over the years."

One of the event organizers and the adjutant for the 101st Sust. Bde.'s command team, 1st Lt. Thomas Kuche, thanked the community of Murray for hosting the Lifeliners Brigade and for being so welcoming, and he gave more details about how Lifeliners' Soldiers and leadership participated in the military appreciation day.

"We brought our color guard as well as over 20 other Soldiers from our brigade to participate in the events, and we're really looking forward to showing our support of the Murray State community," Kuche stated. "The people at Murray State kindly invited us to come and unfurl the U.S. flag on the football field before the game, and Col. Barton was able to do a coin toss as well.

"After getting to watch the football game, senior Lifeliners leadership spoke to ROTC cadets and told them a bit about what it's like to be a commissioned officer, while the rest of the Lifeliners got to watch the women's volleyball game" Kuche continued. "Lastly, we had the chance to watch the men's basketball game, and we unfurled the flag on the court as well."

Spc. Terron Riedl, a native of Kingman, Ariz. and wheeled vehicle mechanic for the 541st Transportation Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Sust. Bde., mentioned how the Murray State community made him feel welcome, while he was introducing military vehicles and answering questions to local citizens.

"It was great to get to come out to Murray State University and meet some of the people," said Riedl. "I liked answering people's questions about our vehicles and talking with the local families here as well; I think that it is really important, as Soldiers, that we make as many connections with our surrounding communities as possible."