D.C. -- More than 150 Soldiers and Airmen from the District of Columbia and
Florida National Guards and Military District of Washington teamed together to
unfurl a 100-foot-by-300-foot American super flag on opening day of the
baseball season here as the Washington Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves.
The National’s organization is very patriotic and incorporated the DC National
Guard in their pre-game ceremony on opening day the past five years. They
utilize military members into their ceremonies to appropriately honor our
nation's military who serve in the Nation’s capital.
of Servicemembers were on the field and greeted the starters as they ran onto
the field. The U.S. Navy Band performed America the Beautiful prior to
the game and the National Anthem in conjunction with the flag unfurling.
Top generals representing all four services threw out the first pitch.
members of the National Guard were individually recognized prior to the start
of the game. Staff Sgt. Jenna Hall, Unit Training Manager with the 113th
Maintenance Group, D.C. Air National Guard and Bronze Star Recipient, and Staff
Sergeant Timothy Huggins, 58th Infantry Brigade Combat Team,
Maryland Army National Guard.
Sgt. Hall was recognized for her service during Operation Iraqi Freedom and
volunteering to serve additional time beyond her deployment in Iraq.
an honor to be recognized in front of such a big crowd,” Hall said. “There are
a lot of other Guardsmen who have done a lot of impressive things and I feel
proud to serve with them.”
attendance for the game surpassed 40,000.
able to cover the field with a flag at an event like this is great way to
showcase the D.C. National Guard,” said LTC Dewey Wiseman, Joint Force
Headquarters, D.C. National Guard.
Airmen and Soldiers who volunteered met at Nationals Field eight hours before
the game for a 10-15 minute run-through for the opening ceremony. During this
time, each Airman and Soldier was given a specific job to ensure the massive
flag could be opened without touching the ground. The flag was so large
that it would literally cover a football field.
all the down time between the practice and the actual ceremony Airmen and
Soldiers maintained high spirits.
Sgt. Mike McKenna, Avionics, 113 Wing Maintenance Squadron, has participated in
the past five opening ceremonies for the Nationals.
“"It's a privilege," McKenna
said. “There's a tremendous sense of pride being on the field."
Soldiers and Airmen had an incentive for volunteering for this assignment as
they received tickets for the game in addition to standing on the field for the
the volunteers made their way to the stands after the opening ceremonies, many
encountered grateful fans. Soldiers
and Airmen continually heard ‘thank you for your service’ from fans as they
walked through the concourse and stadium.
and honor seemed to be the theme for those who volunteered.
“Hearing the roar of the fans after the National Anthem is really heartfelt,”
said Staff Sgt. John Griffin, a jet engine mechanic in the 113th Maintenance
Squadron. “It makes me proud to wear the uniform.”
“I felt a lot of pride when the crowd
roared as the flag opened,” said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Zakszeki, an aircraft electrician
in the maintenance squadron.
the military presence at the game did not intimidate the Braves, who defeated the
the loss, Tom Davis, the event’s organizer for the Nationals, said the
organization is grateful for the support the DC Guard has given them in the
team’s first decade in Major League Baseball.
temperatures in the low 40s and drizzle fans had to bundle up, and overcast
skies kept the DC Guard’s 121st Fighter Squadron from doing an F-16
flyover, but Davis was happy with the military fanfare. A lot of work went into
coordination of the flyover and everything else, he said, and that too was
far as the opening day loss goes, there’s always next year he said, and there
is a lot of season left to get back at the Braves.
Col. Kevin McAndrews, DC National Guard Public Affairs, contributed to this