By Vince Little, The BayonetMay 18, 2011
ATLANTA - Fort Benning played a role in Major League Baseball's fifth annual Civil Rights Game on Sunday at Turner Field, while a Warrior Transition Battalion Soldier stepped out of the dugout as the day's "Hometown Hero."
About 40 Soldiers each from the 198th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team and 192nd Infantry Brigade held a giant American flag in the outfield during the national anthem, and more than 100 family members also made the voyage north to see Atlanta's 3-2 win over NL East rival Philadelphia in a marquee pitching matchup between Braves right-hander Tim Hudson and Phillies ace Roy Halladay.
"I think it was an exciting experience for them," said Capt. Rob Morris, an assistant operations officer for the 198th Infantry Brigade and the trip's lead coordinator. "A few of the guys got to go into the locker room and meet some of the players before the game. It was cool getting an inside look at Turner Field. It was nice to be able to represent Fort Benning at the game."
Atlanta was the designated venue this year for baseball's Civil Rights Game, founded in 2007 to honor the pioneers who worked to better the nation and its communities, as well as examine the national pastime's presence in society.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig attended the ceremony. Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, actor Morgan Freeman and musician Carlos Santana received Beacon Awards and there was a video tribute to Braves Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. The Braves and Phillies wore throwback uniforms from the 1974 season, the year Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home run record.
Soldiers pulling flag duty departed Fort Benning at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday for the two-hour ride to Atlanta. They had to be at the stadium early for an on-field rehearsal.
"It was pretty cool," said Pfc. Justin Ingram of the 3rd HBCT. "That was my first time on a Major League Baseball field. I never thought I'd be doing something like this."
While standing around in the tunnel beyond the right-field foul pole, several Soldiers got autographs and photos taken with players arriving at Turner Field before the game.
"It was a neat experience," said Pvt. Jacob Dale of the 3rd HBCT. "I never would've had it if I was a civilian."
Dale, Ingram and Spc. Christopher McCane, another unit Soldier, were waiting in line to go into the Braves' locker room when they spotted Phillies slugger Ryan Howard walking by.
"It seemed like he was running late," McCane said, "but he had no problem taking pictures with us. It was awesome.
"All you seem to hear about is the Army deploying and going to war. We never get to do stuff like this too often."
Staff Sgt. William Glenn, assigned to Fort Benning's WTB, took a different route to Turner Field after being picked as the "Hometown Hero" by Operation Homefront Georgia and the Atlanta Braves. They recognize a different service member at every Sunday home game and special events.
The crowd of 42,117 gave Glenn - the sixth WTB Soldier to be honored by the Braves - a standing ovation when he walked onto the field before the bottom of the sixth inning. He was severely wounded during a rocket attack in Afghanistan last May while serving with the 135th Joint Sustainment Command, an Alabama National Guard unit. His injuries included neck and back fractures, a split biceps tendon in the right shoulder, and a severe concussion, which resulted in a stroke.
"It was a real honor to be selected out of so many other Soldiers and I was really touched," he said of the reception. "I think very highly of the Atlanta Braves organization for even doing that, not just to me, but for any Soldier. Knowing an organization like that takes time to honor Soldiers who serve means a lot."
Glenn has spent 18 years in the National Guard and 10 more on active duty. He said he got his photo taken with several celebrities at the Civil Rights Game, including Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, Freeman, Santana and Harry Belafonte.