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Super Bowl to Feature Veterans, Servicemembers

By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2005 – America's servicemembers of yesterday, today and tomorrow will be featured during the pre-game show for the NFL's Super Bowl XXXIX, a championship game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles Feb. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I think it's fantastic that the NFL is honoring our military men and women, and giving the American people a chance to express their appreciation for their servicemembers who make so many sacrifices to protect us," said C. Patrick Dooling, public affairs officer for the Navy Region Southeast, which has its headquarters in Jacksonville. Dooling helped coordinate Defense Department support for the event.

This year's theme for the pre-game show is "Bridging Generations." A group of about 50 men and women veterans of the Second World War, representing each branch of the military service, will be escorted onto the field by Naval Junior ROTC cadets from Florida high schools, Dooling said.

"This country owes a lot to the World War II generation. In my opinion, they represent everything that is good in our country," he said. "They have a spirit of patriotism and love of our country like no other group. The World War II veterans are called 'The Greatest Generation,' but our own generation is also doing a great job of defending us. I think it's great to have an opportunity to honor great generations, past and present."

The veterans will stand at attention alongside the cadets as a choral group of 100 singers, 25 from each U.S. service academy, sings the national anthem. A joint color guard made up of active-duty troops will hold the American flag and the flag of each military service during the ceremony, according to Dooling.

In addition to the veterans, military aviators will take part in the festivities by conducting two flyovers. The first will consist of a group of vintage military aircraft, while the second will consist of two Air Force F/A- 22 Raptors and two Navy F/A18 Super Hornets. The vintage aircraft will make good contrast to the jets, which represent America's newest aircraft, Dooling said.

Though Super Bowl Sunday is the big day, participation of military personnel isn't limited to the Super Bowl game itself. In the days leading up to the weekend, about 300 recruiters from all branches have been in Jacksonville, educating people about the military.

"Here in Jacksonville, we call the week leading up to the Super Bowl 'Superfest.' The city's been very full with people coming down for the game," Dooling said. "It's been a great place to help show American people what the military is about."

In addition to the recruiters, Dooling said about 1,700 military volunteers are helping to support Super Bowl preparations in many different ways.

While servicemembers are reaching out to sports fans, football players have done a little reaching out on their own. Dooling said current players and NFL Hall of Fame members have reached out to the military community by visiting troops in military hospitals, bases and on ships. These included Blount Island Marine Corps Base and the carrier USS John F. Kennedy, docked at Naval Station Mayport. Both the base and the naval station are in Jacksonville.

"I'm very glad that the group of NFL players were able to take time out to visit with the troops and show their thanks. They didn't have to do that, but it meant a lot to servicemembers," Dooling said.

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