By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellMarch 4, 2013
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- As hundreds of University of Maryland students stormed the court during a men's basketball game victory over Duke University Feb 16, four Army Reserve Soldiers had courtside seats to watch the Maryland Terrapins knock off the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
The 200th Military Police Command Soldiers were honored by the University of Maryland Athletics, in partnership with USO Metro and General Dynamics IT as part of their ongoing efforts to recognize all service members from the Fort Meade, Md., area.
Cpt. John Barbee, an operations officer with the command, said the night was special and he felt truly honored to be a part of the celebration on and off the court.
"Once we arrived and made contact with our representative, we were treated with a lot of respect and honor," he said. "The University of Maryland really appreciated our service."
Barbee said, as he stood on the court and the crowd cheered and applauded when their names were announced over the public address speakers, it was a memory of a lifetime.
"Not only were we representing the 200th Military Police Command but all the U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers -- past and present."
He said as the final name was read, nearby students started to chant, "U-S-A!" which quickly filled the arena.
With thousands of Terrapin students there to watch the number one team in the country visit their house and ultimately be defeated, Barbee said the younger generation recognized the sacrifices made by the U.S. military.
"The student body was great," he said. "While we were walking around, the students would shake our hands and thank us for our service."
He hoped those students walked away with a better understanding of the military and the sacrifices all service members and their families make every day.
"The University of Maryland is a stellar university, and it was an amazing experience which I will not soon forget," he said.
Standing next to Barbee was someone who starting the evening not knowing a lot about the Terrapins, but finished the evening with an appreciation of a local university.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Mooney, an operations NCO with the 200th MPCOM, said it was his first time attending a University of Maryland sporting event.
"The crowd atmosphere during the game was amazing," he said. "I will definitely be attending more games."
With Duke University the number one-rated team in the country and the Terrapins knocking off the Blue Devils in the final minutes, Mooney said he couldn't ask for a better game to be his first Terrapin experience. From interaction with the fans to watching them storming the court after the upset win, Mooney said he enjoyed the whole experience.
On the flip side, Master Sgt. Tomeka Johnson-Nunn, a self-proclaimed Duke basketball fan, spent the early part of the game bragging to Staff Sgt. Shawn Atkinson, who grew up down the road from the Terrapin campus and spent several years as a recruiter.
Johnson-Nunn lives, breathes and talks sports and had hoped the outcome of the game would be slightly different.
"I know people are going to give me a hard time, but they have to ask themselves, 'Who really is the better team,'" she said sitting across from Atkinson in her office a couple days later. "They may have won on the scoreboard, but who has more national championships."
Johnson-Nunn did have to concede, however, that the Maryland fans knew how to recognize servicemembers. "Hearing the cheers after they read our names sent chills up and down my spine," she said. "From the time we left the parking lot, and all the way into the building, people were thanking us. From college students to adults, it was amazing. It was a great time -- we were right on the floor. I'm the only Duke fan in that seating area, so I had a great time going back and forth with the Maryland students.
"As we left, one of the students said to me 'I respect you because you're in the service. You're pretty cool -- for a Duke fan. I'm going to thank you for your service, and forgive you for being a Duke fan.'"
As the final buzzer sounded, it really didn't matter who won or lost for the four Reserve Soldiers, but rather how Terrapins fans let them into their world to be recognized for all service members.