One of the best things about an Army Football Saturday-besides the game itself-is the tailgate with friends, food and refreshments.

During the game with Vanderbilt Oct. 10, West Point Soldiers, Warriors in Transition and Family members were treated to a special gathering of their own.

The free Year of the NCO Tailgate at Buffalo Soldier Pavilion was made possible thanks to Sean Keever, a Verizon Fios field installer and instructor, and about 35 other volunteers.

The Pleasant Valley resident is a former Soldier himself.

Keever enlisted in February 1983 as a field artilleryman and spent 10 years in the Army.

He credits his ability to teach technical know-how to his military training.
"(Training is) all you do," Keever said. "If there was one thing I learned how to do extremely well was teach a class."

Keever is also a big Army football fan, literally and figuratively. His six-foot-four-inch frame may seem imposing, but when he talks sports and barbecue, he is as down to earth as they come.
Keever admits that he doesn't get to football games at West Point as often as he would like to.

"I try to make at least one game a year besides this event," Keever said.

Keever's involvement with the tailgate began last year, when he and Big Guns BBQ volunteered to cook for about 50 to 75 Soldiers in front of Bldg. 626.

When he asked his teammates and friends from the competitive barbecue arena for their help, they answered the call and brought over their giant cookers and smokers with enough meat to feed an army.

That event was very warmly received, which gave Keever the idea to cater a bigger party this year.

"Last year Sean and Big Guns BBQ did a tailgate barbecue for the Warriors in Transition and it was a great success," said 1st Sgt. Deon Dabrio, West Point WTU first sergeant. "He indicated at that time that he would like to return to West Point and do another tailgate for the (Warriors in Transition) and Soldiers of West Point."

The West Point chaplains made a sizable donation for this year's tailgate, Dabrio said.

Although those funds were meant specifically to honor the Warriors in Transition, they were able to invite noncommissioned officers and their Family members in recognition of the Year of the NCO.

Keever and his co-workers also donated what they could to purchase other needed supplies.

In turn, their involvement was recognized by their Verizon Foundation, which also donated funds for the event.

"Each full-time employee who donates 50 hours to a nonprofit organization receives a $750 grant that is directly applied to that organization," Keever said.

The tailgates are Keever's way of thanking Soldiers for their service, as well as providing an opportunity for Soldiers, Veterans and civilians to connect with each other.

"My wife won't let me re-enlist," Keever joked. "So this is what I can do. We don't get a chance to thank you guys enough."

The WTU and the West Point community were thoroughly pleased with Keever and his friends' hospitality, Dabrio said, and look forward to the next party they bring to West Point.

"It was awesome. The Soldiers totally enjoyed the event from start to finish," Dabrio said. "Everything was professionally laid out for the Soldiers to come and enjoy. We are very lucky to have Big Guns BBQ take time out from their busy schedule to give back to the Soldiers."

With the donation from the chaplains, Keever and his friends had enough funds left over to start preparing for a tailgate at this year's Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

They hope to bring Warriors in Transition from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to attend that event.

Keever is also issuing a challenge to about 15 to 20 of his co-workers-to raise enough funds to hold a tailgate at Army-Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium next year and invite Warriors in Transition from across the northeast United States.