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Joint-Service Color Guard Marches into NFL Season Opener

By Staff Sgt. Carmen Maldonado, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2003 – Operation Tribute to Freedom teamed up with the National Football League to honor the nation's military forces during the season-opening game here between the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets, Sept. 4.

A joint-service color guard from the Military District of Washington displayed a rainbow of patriotic colors at FedEx Field in front of more than 85,000 fans during the playing of the national anthem. The pregame and halftime activities were dedicated to all the military personnel fighting the global war on terrorism.

The service members of the color guard -- featuring three representatives each from the Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps -- stood proudly and solemnly as a giant American flag, shaped like the United States, was unfurled on the field behind them. The spectators, enthralled in a patriotic frenzy, cheered on along with the Redskins cheerleaders, who lined up in front of the color guard teams.

"I just love my job. It's things like this that make my job exciting. It's a chance-in-a-lifetime event," said Coast Guard Seaman Shane Mork, a native of Tempe, Ariz., stationed with the Coast Guard Telecommunications Information Systems Command in Alexandria, Va., headquarters of the Coast Guard's color guard.

In addition to Mork, Seaman Brandon Kelly of Virginia Beach, Va., and Seaman Rocky Rogers of Daingerfield, Texas, made up the Coast Guard color guard team.

"Being viewed by millions is a privilege. It's probably the most patriotic event I've been a part of, and I'll be able to tell this someday to my grandkids," said Mork.

The Army was represented by Sgt. James Freeman of Franklin, Maine; Spc. Jeremy Locke of Portland, Ore.; and Spc. Egalle Bridges of Omaha, Neb. They are stationed at the Old Guard, with headquarters at Fort Myer, Va.

"It's going to mean a lot to me to be in front of these people. My fellow soldiers at home will be watching the game tonight and saying 'There's the Army. They represent me,'" said Freeman.

"I love being in the spotlight. Everyone on base is going to record the game just to get a glimpse of us. That's a big deal," said Bridges.

As the giant American flag was furled, the color guard teams regrouped for their patriotic exit.

"These kids are sharp. It makes me proud to see the type of soldiers that are representing our country today," said Robert McGee, a spectator from Gaithersburg, Md.

The Air Force representation at the game consisted of Airmen 1st Class Bobby Hall of Hartsville, S.C.; Lacy Webster of Wichita, Kan.; and Milton Weaver of Mobile, Ala. They are stationed at Bolling Air Force Base, in Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Air Force color guard unit.

The Navy team was Seaman Christopher Mullen, Seaman Paul Wolfe, and Airman Apprentice Othello Adou, all members of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard, Naval District of Washington.

"It feels really good to be here. Each mission that we do is important, but this one means a lot because it's a sporting event dedicated to the military," said Adou.

Cpl. Adam Smith, Lance Cpl. John McGuigan, and Lance Cpl. Kelly Baker represented the Marines. The A Company Color Guard unit at the Marine Barracks 8th and I in Washington is home to more than 200 men and women in this elite group.

"I'm glad it's over. I love this job, but it's nerve- wracking to stand still when you know thousands, if not millions, are watching you," said Smith.

The joint service color guard, formed by teams from all the service branches of the military, participates in more than 500 events a year.

"We are all proud of what we do. There's a healthy competition going on, though," Baker said. "We all want to look better than the team next to us, and it's all good."

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