CINCINNATI – More than 100 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, “Duke Brigade” were honored for their service at a Cincinnati Reds’ home game, April 26.
The all-day event for the soldiers started with a workout session at the Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, before moving over to the Great American Ballpark to watch the Reds host the San Francisco Giants.
Master Sgt. Gene Siler, of Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt., said he decided an event like this would be good for the soldiers after being honored himself as a “Hometown Hero” by the Reds while on mid-tour leave from Afghanistan last year.
“It’s humbling to see the whole crowd stand up for you,” said Siler of his experience being honored, “and to see what we mean to Americans, which we overlook from time to time.”
He decided to reach out to the Reds and the Bengals organizations, to see what they had to offer.
Lorrie Platt, a marketing specialist for the Reds said that they have a long-standing policy of offering free admission to active-duty soldiers.
“It is important to us in many ways,” she said via e-mail, “but most importantly provides some relief and hopefully a little fun, as we realize [the soldiers] have much stress in their everyday lives.”
After a workout session up and down the steps of Paul Brown Stadium, two soldiers reenlisted on the football field, before the whole group marched down the street to the ballpark. Upon arriving, they were met with cheers and applause from the baseball fans and merchants there.
“The most rewarding part was the applause and appreciation we heard as we were walking up to the stadium,” said Siler. “People just started clapping and shaking our hands.”
The soldiers were initially given a section of the “nosebleed” seats, but during the bottom of the first inning, a Reds’ representative came up and offered them a section at field level. The group received another ovation as they took over those seats.
The whole event was a good morale boost for the soldiers, said 1st Lt. Solomon Metcalf, the assistant operations officer for the 1st Bn.
“Apart from showing the soldiers how much [their leadership] cares about them,” said Metcalf, “it’s also about letting them have some fun, giving them an opportunity to watch a baseball game.”
Metcalf said the day’s departure from their regular schedule showed the soldiers the willingness of their leaders to put in the time and effort necessary to organize events outside the norm of Army training.
“There’s nothing special [the soldiers] have to do on their parts,” he said. “It’s about having fun, and watching baseball, the most American thing there is.”
Even though the home team lost by one after the Giants’ Angel Pagano knocked a three-run homer out of the park in the ninth, the soldiers still had a good time, and proudly received more applause and honking horns as they marched from the ballpark back to their buses.
“It hits home,” said Siler of the honor he and his soldiers felt to be welcomed so warmly by the Reds’ and Bengals’ organizations, as well as the fans in the stands. “It just makes you proud to serve and reminds you why it’s important."