D.C. Soccer Team Honors Military Personnel

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2007 - The most successful team in Major Leagues Soccer's 11-year history paid special tribute to America's military men and women here last night.

D.C. United hosted its 8th Annual Armed Forces Appreciation Day with several pre-game festivities at RFK Stadium. More than a thousand military personnel were invited to the game free of charge, and the team distributed military appreciation T-shirts to the first 5,000 fans.

"It is a privilege and an honor for D.C. United to host members of the armed forces and their families each season," Stephen Zack, D.C. United executive vice president, said. "We respect the commitment that these individuals and their loved ones make and hope to share with them our support of their efforts."

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Hernandez, who helped pass out small American flags to fans, said he was glad the team had a special night to acknowledge U.S. troops. "I really appreciate what D.C. United is doing," Hernandez said. "It's great they are recognizing the soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors who serve their country."

The night's activities included military-related displays and booths in the team's "Soccer Celebration" area outside the stadium. A tractor-trailer emblazoned with the "America Supports You" logo was among the features. America Supports You is a Defense Department program that showcases ways in which Americans around the country are supporting military members.

Prior to kickoff, there was an on-field swearing-in ceremony of 15 new recruits from various services. Jesse Brush was one of the fresh faces soon to don a U.S. Navy uniform. He said he joined the Navy to serve his country.

"I have a lot of national pride and I wanted to show it. I thought the best way do that was to join the military," Brush said. " I hope to get some good training and serve my country."

Sgt. 1st Class Gary Wagner, an Army recruiter, said new recruits are sometimes apprehensive about their decision at first, but in the end most are extremely happy and proud they joined the armed forces. "The military is a good way for young people to start off their life. It gives them discipline and a job skill, and helps them pay for college," he said. "I've been in 16 years and it's been great. I've loved every year of it."

Other activities during the night included a military aircraft flyover and a ceremonial first kick by military personnel. Kids Serve Too, an America Supports You home front group, took the field to help hold a large American flag during the playing of the national anthem. Fans also had the opportunity to send text messages of support to U.S. servicemembers through the America Support You text messages system.

In addition, the U.S Navy Drill Team performed at halftime.

Skip Kruger, D.C. United's senior director of corporate partnerships, and a former Marine, said the team is glad to set aside time to honor American troops.

"The people involved with D.C. United are big believers in supporting those in the military and their families," Kruger said. "We encourage our fans to do the same thing. And as you can see by the applause the troops received from our fans, they do."

As for the game, D.C. United beat the Chicago Fire 3-1.

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