WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2014 —
A group of U.S. service members presented military-style identification tags -- also known as “dog tags” -- to Team USA basketball players last night in New York’s Madison Square Garden during the halftime ceremony of the Team USA and Dominican Republic exhibition game.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver, and Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski attended the ceremony.
Team USA won the game, 105-62.
Team USA and Dominican Republic basketball players are preparing to compete at the International Basketball Federation, commonly known as FIBA, World Cup championship tournament slated to start later this month in Spain.
Last night’s presentation is part of the “Commitment to Service” relationship the U.S. military has with USA Basketball.
The service members presented each member of the team with two dog tags.
“The dog tag is an iconic symbol in the military in the sense that it represents courage and trust,” Dempsey said. “We wear them around our necks wherever we serve.”
The ceremony was a way for American service members to show that they appreciate the players giving their time and energy to also represent America, the chairman said.
The ceremony was part of the partnership between the U.S. military and USA Basketball. That partnership “brings together members of the best military in the world with members of the best basketball teams in the world,” Dempsey said.
The dog tags feature the United States’ flag and a three-word inscription on the bottom: leadership, service, teamwork. The back of the tag has the player’s name and other data.
The second dog tag features the name of a soldier, airman, Marine, sailor, or Coast Guardsman next to the player’s name, “so they can remember at this moment in time, the United States military wished them not only good luck but also expressed our pride in them for representing our country,” Dempsey said.
Representing the United States is a big responsibility, the chairman said.
“I still remember to this day the first time I put on the uniform and on our utility or daily uniform over your left breast pocket it’ll say United States Army or United States Navy or United States Marine Corps, United States Air Force,” Dempsey said.
“I can only imagine the first time these … young men, pull that jersey on with USA emblazoned on the front,” he added. “That’s got to mean something.”
Dempsey and NBA Commissioner Silver are looking to build the current “Hoops for Troops” program into the “Commitment to Service” program. This program calls for service members and basketball players around the country to “commit together to do something in the communities around which these bases are built,” the chairman said.
“One of the things the commissioner has always said, the reason we have become so close, their organization and ours, is that they actually are committed not just to winning games, not just to financial gain,” Dempsey said. “It's a business, right, but also to developing these young men. And I've got to tell you, this is an extraordinary opportunity for them to develop as young men.”
FIBA, derived from the organization’s French name, Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball, is an association of national organizations that governs international competition in basketball. The FIBA World Cup championship games are slated to be played in Spain between August 30 and September 14.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)