HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – A sell-out crowd of more than 6,000 screaming fans showed their support Saturday for local service members, veterans and military spouses during a night honoring America’s men and women in uniform.
The Huntsville Havoc, the local professional hockey team, hosted the Peoria Rivermen during Military Appreciation Night at the Von Braun Center, March 19. The evening included Soldiers rappelling from the ceiling, a future Soldier enlistment ceremony and a postgame jersey auction, featuring the jerseys worn by the Havoc players that night.
Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, dropped the ceremonial pregame puck and thanked Still Serving Veterans’ local chapter for sponsoring the event.
“This is a great experience to be able to, once again, see the strong ties between the Huntsville community and its military, and to be able to do it at such a fun and exciting venue, like a Huntsville Havoc game, is incredible,” Karbler said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Huntsville and all of our military community, whether they are active duty, retirees or family members to showcase our relationship.
“Right now we are leading 3-to-1, so I hope the Havoc can wreak havoc on Peoria,” he added.
After the first period, Karbler swore in 11 future Marines and five future Soldiers from the local community as they prepare to enter basic training.
“I’ve been able to do this a few times in different sports venues, and every time I really have to watch myself to not get choked-up because I am so proud of these young men and women who are taking the steps to serve their country,” Karbler said. “I know the sacrifices that lay ahead of them and it makes me very proud to know that there are men and women who will serve after our time and continue the great legacy of military service.”
Still Serving Veterans’, who was the lead sponsor the event, mission is to empower veterans, wounded warriors and their families to transition into post-military careers and communities through outreach and education. Since its inception in 2006, the organization has assisted more than 12,000 veterans and their families.
“Huntsville is an incredibly generous, military-friendly community and Still Serving Veterans is honored to be a partner with the Huntsville Havoc in serving and honoring our veterans, service members and members of the Guard and Reserves and their families,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paulette M. Risher, Still Serving Veterans president and chief executive officer. “The Huntsville Havoc Military Appreciation Night is a wonderful celebration and outpouring of military goodwill and caring. Also, the evening is just plain fun and a welcome relief from the challenges of the world.”
Risher said Still Serving Veterans was established 16 years ago to help severely wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan. Still Serving Veterans helps local veterans with basic life needs when they are in crisis. In terms of impact, in 2021 the organization helped more than 1,050 veterans find jobs, secured more than $3.2 million in Veterans Affairs’ benefits for their clients and helped nearly 100 veterans with basic services.
“As the Department of Defense began to catch up with the demand for care, it became clear that local veterans needed assistance with employment and VA benefits,” Risher said. “None of this would be possible without the trust of our clients and the generosity of our grantors, donors and collaborators.”
During the postgame jersey auction, Still Serving Veterans raised $28,750 for veterans.
Cassie Chapman, Huntsville Havoc vice president of operations, said Military Appreciation Night is a way the team can thank the military community at Redstone Arsenal and local National Guard and Reserve units who stand ready to face whatever challenges may arise.
“Each year we support Still Serving Veterans and their mission to serve and honor veterans and their families,” Chapman said. “The community of Huntsville is extremely important in the success of the Huntsville Havoc organization, so being able to give back to the Huntsville Military community through Still Serving Veterans is an honor for us.
“Military Appreciation Night is always one to remember,” she added. “From the arena atmosphere to the physicality of the game and celebrating those who are serving or have served, it’s always a night that people tend not to forget. It also gives fans of the Havoc a chance to contribute to Huntsville’s military community and own a piece of Havoc history by participating in the post-game jersey auction, where all proceeds go to Still Serving Veterans.”
Chapman thanked veterans for their service and everything they have done for the country, the Madison County community, and the Huntsville Havoc organization. She added that Military Night means so much to this organization and hopes the night can help the community continue to carry out the mission of Still Serving Veterans.
“This night is one of our organization’s favorite nights of the year, because we get to show our full appreciation for all aspects of our country’s military,” Chapman said. “This night allows so many people from many different backgrounds to come together and enjoy a thrilling night of hockey while celebrating everything that members of our nation’s military have done to ensure our freedom. From the Huntsville Havoc family to you, we can’t thank you enough.”
The Havoc beat the Rivermen with a final score of 3-2.