By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 15, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 15, 2012) -- For more than 15 years Troy University has honored veterans and the military with a Military Appreciation Day, but this year's celebration was packed full of extra tributes to honor those who have served and those currently serving.
At this year's appreciation day Troy played against Navy in the Salute to Armed Forces football game that Troy won, 41-31, and the day of the game was also the 237th Marine Corps birthday, which was celebrated with a cake cutting ceremony at the new Trojan Arena, according to Sandy Atkins, associate director of athletics.
"This is just a way for the university to say 'thank you' to our military for all that they have done for our country. Our university's leadership has strong military ties, but today's celebrations are something beyond that. The university feels very strongly about service and this is an opportunity to give back," she said.
A special tribute was conducted during the halftime show where anyone who had served in any branch of the military was invited to walk along the 50-yard line to be recognized. The Sound of the South Marching Band played each branch's song while the service members walked down.
Many other aspects of the military were recognized before, during and after the game as well.
The Wounded Warrior Project was represented at the tailgating event; a flyover was conducted by a training squadron from the Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss.; free tickets to the game were given out to all military, veterans and Families at the gate (600 tickets were given specifically to Fort Rucker); Troy signed a scholarship agreement that will help graduates of Marion Military Institute complete a four-year degree; Troy for Troops Scholarship Fund donation boxes could be found around the stadium (the scholarship benefits the Family members of service members killed in action) and more than 350 uniformed Soldiers from the Warrant Officer Career College and 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment were given a special recognition walk-in and seating at the game.
Troy also honored the Family of Marine Lance Cpl. Jason Barfield, an Ashford native who was killed in Afghanistan. Barfield's Family took part in the pre-game coin toss.
Warrant officer candidate Daniel Otchere, who is studying to be a chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological technician, said that the opportunity was priceless for those men and women who have been in WOCC training for the last five weeks.
"We have been completely dead to the outside world, so to get out of that environment and get to watch football for the day is amazing. We definitely appreciate Troy University for giving us the opportunity to come out to enjoy the game," he said.
Otchere, as well as students from Troy, felt the event was a great opportunity for Soldiers to be invited to view "such a good game" for free.
Sarah Marsh, a Troy student whose husband was a Marine, and whose nephew and son are currently Marines, appreciated the thought and effort Troy and Fort Rucker went through to make the day possible.
"It was a wonderful idea for the school to let the military be a part of this. It's not just the Army or the Marines, but every service. It's a great way to reach out to the military community that surrounds us," she said.
"Any time we can interact with the military and show our support is a wonderful thing. They are defending us and deserve to take a small break to watch some football," she said, adding that her favorite part of the day was Troy honoring Jason Barfield. "He was one of our own who gave his life for what he believed in."
Even NCOs like U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence G-3 Sgt. Maj. Marvin Pinckney felt the joy of being at the game.
"It feels great to know our surrounding community appreciates what Fort Rucker and its Soldiers do for our nation and the Wiregrass communities. I feel it's important because a long-lasting bond of trust and respect is mutually developed [with these types of events]," he said.
Troy's announced crowd of 24,321 ranks fifth in Veterans Memorial Stadium history.