CINCINNATI, Ohio - The Cincinnati Reds remembered our nation's fallen service members and recognized those about to deploy in a ceremony at their Memorial Game Monday. Sailors and soldiers assigned to and training with First Army Division East took part in the day's commemoration of sacrifice and freedom.
Soldiers and sailors of Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, Uruzgan, and Ghanzi along with trainer-mentors from First Army Division East were recognized before the game for their service. The teams, comprised of 130 Army and Navy service members, have been training at Atterbury-Muscatatuck near Edinburgh, Ind., in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
PRTs are multi-component, joint and interagency teams that support reconstruction efforts and empower local governments in Afghanistan.
U.S. Navy Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Gagner, assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, sang the National Anthem at the Great American Ball Park, in Cincinnati, Ohio as part of the Reds' Memorial Day celebration.
"Today was a great reminder of how appreciative the public is for the sacrifice we make day in and day out," said Gagner, of Diamond Bar, Calif. "I couldn't think of a country that I would rather serve to protect than the one we call home."
"Being a fourth generation sailor, it meant a lot for me to be here celebrating Memorial Day," said U.S. Navy Lt. Chad A. Dulac, of Wenatchee, Wash. "It is an honor to remember those who have served and those still serving around the world."
Another Navy Lt. Luke Milavec, intelligence officer for PRT Uruzgan agreed.
"The support we received from the American people and the fans at the game was incredible. It means so much to us to have that support; no matter how people feel about the war, they support their service members, and that means so much to us," he said.
In addition to being recognized during the game, several of the service member's family members traveled from around the country to spend a couple hours with their loved ones and attend the game.
Lt. j. g. Laura Cargill, a physician assistant with PRT Uruzgan, got a surprise from her husband Marine 1st Lt. Logan Giger, stationed at Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base, Jacksonville, N.C.
"I was very grateful for the short time we were able to spend together," said Cargill, of Oklahoma City, Okla. "It's hard being a dual military couple on different deployment schedules, and any amount of time we get together is a blessing."
Gagner's family drove four hours from Akron, Ohio to watch him sing the National Anthem, and they recorded it for his mother, who couldn't attend.
"We wouldn't have missed it for the world," said John Anderson, Gagner's cousin. "On Memorial Day of all days. It's easy to forget that we are at war; it's our obligation to remind people."
"It means the world to his mother; she is over the moon," added Anderson's wife, Anne. "She is so proud of her son; she's just heartsick that she can't be here."
It was a day to celebrate not only the young men and women as they leave to defend their country but those who came home. Three members of the Tuskegee Airmen, who as young men enlisted to become America's first black military airmen, were also recognized and received a standing ovation from the crowd at Great American Ball Park. And shortly after, U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Samuel Deeds, who was injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq in 2005, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"When there is true appreciation for another human being, a person feels something deeper than a normal applause from a crowd," said Patrick McGrath, Reds promotional events coordinator. "Every game, no matter what the outcome is on the field, there is a standing ovation at the ballpark for the person or persons being recognized on the dugout.
"It brings a sense of pride to our fans to know throughout Reds Country there are these men and women who give the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom."