America Supports You: Servicemembers Shine During NFL Game in Houston
By Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
HOUSTON, Sept. 25, 2006 The National Football League's Houston Texans honored American servicemembers during its salute to the military at the game against the Washington Redskins at Reliant Stadium here yesterday.
Army Staff Sgt. Santantoniano Smith from the Houston Recruiting Battalion sings the national anthem in front of a joint color guard from Houston at Reliant Stadium prior to the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins National Football League game Sept. 24. The Texans honored servicemembers in their Salute to the Military day. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Starting with pregame activities and throughout the game, military members were spotlighted as part of the Texans' military appreciation day during the Redskins 31-15 victory over the Texans.
The military's presence was evident from the parking lot to the stands and even on the field as servicemembers were recognized for fighting the war on terrorism. Outside the stadium before the game, military recruiters talked to citizens about the benefits of serving. Numerous uniformed members were invited to the game by the team.
Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Huntley, a military working dog handler from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., was invited by the Texans to meet people in the parking lot and to be welcomed on the field during pregame ceremonies. Huntley returned in June from serving seven months in Ramadi, Iraq, as part of an explosive-detection dog team. He was tasked with finding improvised explosive devises.
"The support is outstanding and shows everyone's thinking of us," said the 25-year-old Marine from Fairfax, Va. "I feel appreciated for what I do and that I make a difference. This experience confirms it."
"I really support everything they do," said Kathryn Currier, a Texans fan who talked to many military members during tailgating before the game. "Without (military servicemembers) we couldn't be enjoying the game and our freedom."
Football fans did not just get to meet servicemembers, they also got to hear from those in uniform, too.
Texans officials selected Army Staff Sgt. Santantoniano Smith. from the Houston Recruiting Battalion, to sing the national anthem in front of more than 70,000 fans and a regionally-televised audience.
"I haven't done anything this big before," said the seven-year Army veteran who is a native of LaGrange, N.C. "It is great to be supported by the NFL and the Texans. It's a pleasure to know there are people out here who support what we do."
As Smith sang the national anthem, a joint service color guard from the Houston area stood behind him with the nation's colors and service flags, and 200 soldiers, Coast Guardsmen, sailors, Marines and airmen unfurled a football-field sized American flag.
Following the "Star Spangled Banner" was the coin toss. On hand to witness the coin toss was Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, the director for the war on terrorism in the Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate in Washington, D.C. Also present for the coin toss were Marine Sgt. Tony Martin and Cpl. Dale Gargave, who escorted Purple Heart recipient Marine Cpl. Steven Schulz.
Showcasing its professionalism at halftime was the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team, which marched on the field and demonstrated its rifle skills without uttering a word. The audience gave a thunderous ovation after the team’s performance.
Texans officials also selected Army Capt. Brandon Teague as its hometown hero for the day. The Houston native is a company commander with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C.
The captain was chosen for the award after serving a tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. His latest tour supporting the war on terrorism found his 17-man squad monitoring the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Approximately 60 al Qaeda members came across the border during a foggy evening. At the break of day Oct. 29, 2005, the enemy engaged Teague and his men. With the assistance of artillery support from soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy, who were in the area, Teague led the victory over the al Qaeda fighters. For his actions in the 1.5 hour-long battle, the captain received the Silver Star.
"Without the support from my family and Americans who support the troops, it would be more difficult to do our job," Teague said. "It is great to see such a huge venue supporting the troops from my hometown."
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales is assigned to Air Force Print News.)