By Erika WonnApril 9, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 9, 2010) -- As summer begins, America's pastime, baseball, stirs up in many a nostalgic sense of national pride. Now Major League Baseball has teamed with the U.S. Army to salute American servicemembers and their families.
Since World War I, Major League Baseball and its players have supported military efforts through recruiting drives, recognition programs, military appreciation games, charitable donations and even some players joining the military to fight for freedom.
Since 2001, especially, baseball has taken great strides around the country to support troops with a variety of programs designed to highlight and assist military members and their families.
The Boston Red Sox spearheaded the "Run to Home Base," a nine-kilometer charity run ending at home base in Fenway Park, Boston, Mass., that honors heroic veterans and helps raise funds for the new Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, a new philanthropic partnership that serves local veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from traumatic brain injury or combat stress disorders. The program not only reaches out to veterans, but also provides support to their families.
Through a range of activities and events, the Home Base Program informs and educates the community about combat stress disorders and traumatic brain injury as supporters seek to encourage veterans and their families to get the support and care they deserve.
The Red Sox aren't alone in their efforts. The Washington Nationals started off the season by honoring a military family of a deployed Soldier at their preseason game against the Red Sox.
The family of Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Greene from Fort Hood, Texas, attended the game with Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli and his wife Beth.
Greene is deployed with 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment to Camp Taji, Iraq. Though this is the Greene family's third deployment in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, the Nationals game was their first experience at a professional sporting event, and Julianne and her children enjoyed the experience.
The youngest Greene child, Bailey, said, "The best part are the hot dogs!"
The family, as many other Army families, has experienced the difficulties of having a loved one away for so long, but their morale was bolstered by a special surprise at the game. During the third inning of the game, they were recognized on the field's big screen alongside wounded warriors who were also honored at the game, and the family had the chance to see a shout out from Greene in Iraq.
Behind her hands that hid a beaming smile, Julianne said, "It was so nice to actually see him. I haven't seen his face since November."
"This experience is not only good for the Greene family, but also for the other military kids here today so they can see families being honored and realize that what their parents are doing is important too," Chiarelli said.
At the Nationals home opener April 5, President Obama got in on the action by throwing the ceremonial first pitch while surrounded by military children from all of the services.
April is the month of the military child, and all over America and abroad the Army is holding events to honor children of Soldiers. Major League Baseball has now joined in.