It’s now Saturday, several days past Memorial Day, and the awesome display of military pageantry the Mets put on in honor of men and women in uniform before battling the Pittsburg Pirates at Citi Field that evening is still fresh on my mind. I’m still soaring high from the event and the part my unit, the 3rdBrigade Combat Team of the 1stInfantry Division, Task Force Duke, played in it.
Our participation was made possible by the great people at the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System in Atlanta, Ga., who paved the way for a live satellite link from here at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan to the big screen in the stadium. Kris Drees of DVIDS sports worked directly with Steve Castleton, Mets Military Appreciation man and personal friend of mine, to make all the stateside-to- Afghanistan coordination. My part here was simple--- find soldiers from the NYC area and hook up our satellite. And it all worked.
The New York soldiers who were able to participate were elated. The looks on their faces as they rehearsed for their big screen debuts was indescribable. I’m sure the same can be said for the families of some of these Soldiers in attendance at the game who were surprised, not only to be recognized during the ceremony, but also by the live, personal greetings from their loved ones direct from Afghanistan. Surprise wasn’t limited only to the Citi Field side of the equation. I was also a “victim” of what I term a Met’s ambush when, out of the blue, my name was called by the announcer over the satellite’s speaker system (for perspective, on our end of the satellite link we can only HEAR what is happening as there is no video link back to us). Thinking it was Steve who wanted to say hello, I grabbed the microphone and walked to center stage (having not rehearsed due to my assumed role behind the scenes).
Soldiers from the 3/1 BCT appear live, from Afghanistan, for the 4th Annual New York Mets Military Appreciation Memorial Day game on May 30. On field photo courtesy of the Freedom Alliance. Close-up photo courtesy of Task Force Duke Public Affairs.
It wasn’t Steve. It was my son, Nick, followed by my beautiful wife, Martisse, neither of whom are from anywhere near New York presently, but surprised me nonetheless with an appearance. Wow…. Here was the love of my life, along with my two oldest kids (out of four kids total--- Nick was the only one who spoke, my son James was too shy to speak but was on the field, and the two youngest were home with Nana and our Au Pair, Cynthia), imported all the way from Kentucky to surprise me at the game. And all I could do was look dumbfounded as I responded back, forgetting to actually look into the camera, and instead turning my ear to the speaker. Nevertheless, I got to experience the same elation that the rest of the NYC Soldiers experienced that day. For that I can’t thank Martisse, Steve, and the Mets enough. You certainly made my day and the day for all of us participating.
My son, Nick, standing with his older brother, James, talks to me from Citi Field on Memorial day. My wife, Martisse, also joined in the "surprise." Photos courtesy of the Freedom Alliance.
To wrap up our portion of opening ceremonies, the commander of TF Duke, Col. Chris Toner, prompted Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Pumarejo to throw the first pitch. A pitcher in high school, he had been preparing for this moment for several months and threw a virtual strike, straight over an imaginary home plate. Overall, it was a great experience.
Command Sgt. Maj. Pumarejo throws the virtual first pitch live, via satellite, during the opening ceremonies of the New York Mets Military Appreciation Day Memorial Day game May 30. Photo courtesy of Task Force Duke Public Affairs.
Thank you, Mets, for the opportunity to be part of your organization for a night. Thank you for making the lives of some New York-area soldiers and their families feel special for a moment. Thanks for the surprise you gave one non-New Yorker (me), and thank you Martisse for doing the unexpected, as usual (I should have guessed).
This is something I’ll never forget.