Hundreds of troops and their families were treated to a professional soccer match on Flag Day during D.C. United’s 9th Annual Armed Forces and Veteran’s Appreciation Day at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, DC.
“A whole night dedicated to service-members makes me feel good,” said Army Spec. Devin Calcote, a member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard,” who presented the nation’s colors at the beginning of the match between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.
The team provided 1,000 free tickets for active-duty service-members. Discounted tickets for military identification card holders and their families were also available.
“It is a privilege and an honor for D.C. United to host a special night for military personnel and veterans each season,” said Stephen Zack, D.C. United’s executive vice president. “We respect the courage and commitment these individuals display and hope to share with them our support.”
Support was on display in the stadium parking before the game. Military recruiters, the U.S.O. and America Supports You greeted troops and soccer fans on their walk from the parking lot.
“I wrote thank you for being in the troops and keeping our nation safe,” said D.C. United fan Timothy Murnin, 12, describing what he wrote on a greeting card to the troops at the Department of Defense America Supports You booth.
America Supports you is a Department of Defense program that connects individual citizens, troop-support organizations and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. America Supports you and its local, non-profit homefront groups have been involved with D.C. United’s Military Appreciation Night for the past two years.
Before the game, thousands of soccer fans witnessed a swearing-in ceremony for some two dozen new recruits headed into the Marine Corps, Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Coast Guard.
“It’s great to be honored here on Flag Day and to enlist some youngsters. The support tonight for service-members from all branches in unbelievable,” said Marine Lt. Gen. Ronald Coleman, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps, before he administered the oath of enlistment.
For one new recruit who will report to the Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, S.C., on June 23, being enlisted into the Marine Corps by a three-star general, in front of thousands of people, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It hit me right in the heart. I really felt like America appreciated me, and I couldn’t believe that all those clapping hands were for me,” said Dayron Nibblins, an aspiring aviation electrical technician.
A driving rain began pouring down in the minutes between the enlistment ceremony and kickoff, but that didn’t stop the action on the field. Some military spectators from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center Wounded Warrior Battalion stayed out of the rain and enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the game from the Champion’s Club overlooking the field.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to come here and relax with my family. I know a good part of the country is behind the soldiers because everywhere I go I get that sentiment, people are positive,” said Army Maj. David Hanes, an armor officer.
Hanes was a victim of a roadside bomb in October 2006, and has suffered through a litany of broken screws and plates, along with an infection in his right femur.
“The good news is that I hope to be going back on duty in the next month or two,” said Hanes as his son, Colin, clung to his side.
For men and women like Hanes eager to serve their country, appreciation for their service can be summed up with the sage words of a an 11-year old soccer fan.
“The troops are fighting for our country and making us free. I want to make them feel appreciated,” said Danny Zilevicius as he filled out an America Supports You greeting card for the troops.
By the end of the night, D.C. United and its fans were rewarded for their appreciation of the armed forces and veterans with a 4-1 win over New York.