By SFC James Brown, 131st MPAD, US Central Command Public AffairsNovember 7, 2007
TAMPA, Fla. - It wasn't just any given Sunday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the Arizona Cardinals in a National Football League game here on November 4. The Bucs organization made it a special day as it honored United States servicemembers with several special activities.
The activities kicked off before the game did, as personnel from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard led the team onto the field during pregame introductions. Flag bearers from the U.S. Army 558th Transportation Division flanked the color guard during the National Anthem.
In honor of two fallen heroes, the families of Pfc. Jonathan Rossi and Staff Sgt. Michael Thomas served as honorary captains during the coin toss. Following the coin toss, Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott presented the families with commemorative footballs.
Pfc. Rossi was killed by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq in July. Staff Sgt. Thomas was killed in a firefight during a combat patrol in Afghanistan in April. Thomas' comrades in the 1st Battalion 7th Special Forces Group were also on hand to honor their friend during the pregame ritual.
Capt. Casey Galligan, 7th Special Forces Group was one of the soldiers there to honor his fellow soldier.
"First and foremost we're here to honor Staff Sgt. Mike Thomas," Capt. Galligan said. "We're here to represent 7th Special Forces Group, and we're just really excited that the Buccaneers went ahead and did this. Mike was a great guy, a warrior who made the ultimate sacrifice, and he's getting his due in front of these people. The Buccaneers, the NFL, it's great for them to do this, to show the military appreciation."
Capt. Galligan said the event was special, because of what it would have meant to his friend and fellow soldier.
"It means a lot to me," he said. "Mike's from Seffner, Florida; he was the biggest Buccaneer fan I ever met in my life, and that was a hard job to do back in the old days. For them to do this, it means everything to him, his family, his son. It gives everybody a great feeling. You're doing the right thing when people show you thanks and gratitude like this."
At halftime nearly 200 future servicemembers were inducted into the United States Military taking their Oath of Enlistment on the Buccaneer's 50-yard-line.
Maj. Gen. Steven J. Hashem, the director, Center for Knowledge & Futures, U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, had the task of enlisting the new servicemembers.
"This is an incredible honor for me to be here today to induct these young men and women into the armed forces of the United States," he said. "We've got a great country, and we've got great youth and I was very honored to be here and very thankful for the gracious hospitality of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa community."
Sean Harter, 23, an enlistee in the Army, who is leaving this month for Basic Training at Fort Benning, Ga., was one of many who took an Oath of Enlistment.
"It was pretty crazy walking out there, with so many people standing up cheering for us," he said. "I wasn't expecting that, but it was nice."
In addition to all of the days' activities, general manager Bruce Allen, quarterback Jeff Garcia, linebacker Barrett Ruud, kicker Matt Bryant and running back Cadillac Williams provided game tickets to military personnel and families through their individual ticket programs, in which they host charitable groups at each Buccaneers home game.
Mr. Allen conveyed the sentiments that were expressed by many who attended the game that the Bucs won 17-10. "I do not believe there is anything more inspirational than the commitment made by the brave men and women of the American armed forces," he said.