Military to Play Big Role at Pro Bowl Game in Hawaii
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2004 Representatives of all five military services in Hawaii will get a special honor this weekend as they take to the Aloha Stadium field in Honolulu to participate in Pro Bowl activities Feb. 8.
The game, which will bring together the top players in the American and National conferences of the National Football League, also will assemble the best and the brightest from throughout the U.S. military in Hawaii.
Service members and volunteers of the year from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard will participate in the coin toss during the game's opening ceremonies.
A joint-service color guard also will participate in the opening ceremonies, 16 sailors will carry NFL flags onto the field at the beginning of the game, and an F-15 Eagle fighter jet from the Hawaii Air National Guard will conduct a flyover. Rock bands from Pacific Air Forces and the Navy's Pacific Fleet will entertain spectators while they stand in line for tickets at the north and south sides of the stadium.
Today has been designated "Military Day" during the Pro Bowl Football Festival. Among events planned were a military challenge competition and a performance by the Navy band at the Kapiolani Park bandstand.
The NFL donated 400 game tickets to service members, and 21 NFL players were scheduled to make visits to troops to recognize their contributions and express appreciation.
Service members chosen to participate in the coin toss called it a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity. "It really is exciting to be able to participate in such a big event as the Pro Bowl," said Spc. Emilee Pardo, soldier of the year for the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and for U.S. Army, Hawaii. "I'm sure it's going to be an experience that I will never forget."
Pardo is a flute and piccolo player in the 25th Infantry Division's Tropic Lightning Band, based at Schofield Barracks.
For Air Force Tech. Sgt. Homero "Jay" Lucero, volunteer of the year at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, taking part in the coin toss "is going to cap my great three-year tour in Hawaii."
Lucero is chief of the commander's support staff at Hickam. His volunteer activities range from visiting the center of aging at Tripler Army Medical Center to helping preserve the historic Battleship Missouri and cleaning up area highways.
"It's the third time I will have been to the Pro Bowl," Lucero said. "But this is the first time that I'll actually be on the field."
Cpl. George A. Mellone, a communications supervisor in the control tower at Kaneohe Bay's Marine Corps Air Facility, said he's honored to get the chance to represent the Marine Corps at the big game that attracts some 18,000 visitors to Hawaii each February.
Mellone is this year's Marine of the Year for Marine Corps Base Hawaii, based at Kaneohe.
Petty Officer 1st Class Allen "A.J." Melendez will represent the Coast Guard during the coin toss. Melendez, logistics manager for U.S. Coast Guard Integrated Support Command Honolulu, calls his upcoming Pro Bowl experience "a huge honor and opportunity."
Also participating in the coin toss will be Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Danforth, sailor of the year for the USS O'Kane, an Aegis-class destroyer home- ported at Pearl Harbor. The ship returned to Hawaii in August after a seven- month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.