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Hoops for heroes 
 
Army Spc. James N. Brown waves to Boston Celtics fans January 12, 2009 
Army Spc. James N. Brown, a machine gunner with A Co., 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard, waves to Boston Celtics fans January 12, 2009 at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Mass. Brown was recognized by the Boston Celtics and the Massachusetts State Lottery as part of their “Heroes Among Us” program for his part in saving a woman’s life while he served on state active duty during a recent ice storm that struck large portions of Massachusetts in mid-December. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Lally)
By Army Sgt. James Lally, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics, in partnership with the Massachusetts Army National Guard, hosted a re-enlistment ceremony for 40 Massachusetts Army National Guardsmen during halftime at the sold-out home game against the Toronto Raptors at the TD Banknorth Garden January 12, 2009. 

The Soldiers who re-enlisted have either returned from, or, are expected to deploy to Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Soldiers stood at center court on the famous parquet floor to receive the oath of re-enlistment administered by Maj. Gen Joseph C. Carter, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard.

The Soldiers who participated in the ceremony watched the game from executive box seats and enjoyed catered food and beverage service.

The Celtics also hosted more than 300 members from all branches of the U.S. military and their families at the game January 12 as part of the second annual Seats for Soldiers program. Seats for Soldiers gave Celtics fans the opportunity to donate tickets to allow members of each branch of the armed services to attend in their place. More than 50 tickets were donated to Soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard due to the Guard’s robust presence in Massachusetts.

During a break in the action in the second quarter, the Celtics and the Massachusetts State Lottery honored Massachusetts Army National Guard Spc. James N. Brown, a machine gunner from A Co., 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, as part of their “Heroes Among Us” program.

Brown and another member of his unit, 2nd Lt. Brian Shaffer, saved a woman’s life on Dec. 14, when their unit was called to state active duty for storm relief efforts. For their actions, Brown and Shaffer were awarded the Massachusetts Medal of Merit in a ceremony Dec. 19, 2008 in Agawam, Mass. 

Another Soldier, Massachusetts Army National Guard Sgt. Daniel W. Bertrand, a signal information service specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 211th Military Police Battalion, joined color commentators Tommy Heinsohn and Mike Gorman on Comcast SportsNet New England, a live-broadcast sports program, to discuss the game, sports and his experience as Soldier.

“It was an honor to sit down with Mike Gorman and a legend like Tommy Heinsohn to talk shop about sports and the military,” said Bertrand.  “Thank you to everyone who donated their tickets, it was a very generous thing to do.”

Bertrand, 27, from Lynn, Mass., has been in the Massachusetts Army National Guard for nine years. Bertrand volunteered to deploy to Iraq in October 2004 with the 42nd Infantry Division. He was primarily stationed north of Tikrit, serving as a communications sergeant and a .50 caliber heavy machine gunner, participating in most of his unit’s combat logistical patrols. Bertrand is slated to deploy to Iraq again in the summer of 2009 with the 211th. 

Some Soldiers at the game were also given ticket upgrades during the game. Army Sgt. Stacey M. Chapman, a signal systems operator with the 26th Signal Network Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard, was one of the lucky Soldiers selected to receive a court-side seat. Chapman deployed to Iraq in 2004 and served as team member on the 42nd Division Artillery’s Personal Security Detachment. Chapman recently returned to Massachusetts after touring with the U.S. Army Soldier Show where she entertained Soldiers and their families by singing and dancing in 2007 and by working as a lighting technician to support the show in 2008.

“To be back among Boston sports fans made me really feel like I was home,” said Chapman. “The Celtics and the people who donated the tickets really went all out for us. It reminded me that what we do as Soldiers is important and felt good to know that people recognize it.” 

During a break in the action, the Celtics announcer asked that all military personnel in attendance stand up and be recognized; when they did, the packed house of fans gave them a standing ovation. Many Soldiers who attended the game were surprised by the quality of their seats and by how much attention was devoted to the Massachusetts Army National Guard, like Army Spc. Dominique E. Sherburne, a supply specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 211th Military Police Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard. 

“Being invited to watch the game court-side was great--the whole night felt like it was just for us,” said Sherburne.

Boston Celtics Team President Rich Gotham said, “We are very proud to partner with the Massachusetts Army National Guard to honor the men and women of all our armed forces. The Seats for Soldiers program was a great success last season and we could not have done it without all the fans who graciously donated their tickets to these courageous individuals who defend our country. We look forward to providing the Soldiers in attendance with a fun and special night.”

1/12/2009