Sports Fans Salute Military Heroes
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
SAN ANTONIO, Mar. 3, 2000 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen joined about 16,000 sports fans at the Alamodome to honor three Texas Medal of Honor recipients during half- time of an NBA basketball game March 2.
The game pitted the hometown Spurs against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Air Force Academy Cadet Chorale opened the show singing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." A videotape shown on the stadium's overhead big screens brought greetings from Texas National Guard members serving in Bosnia.
At a time when most of a basketball crowd is normally trying to get to the foodstands, most of the people in this arena stayed to honor two World War II heroes and a Vietnam veteran who went beyond the call of duty.
Standing in front of a military Color Guard in center court, Cohen and San Antonio Spurs Chairman Peter Holt greeted the honorees -- U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lucian Adams, 77, and U.S. Army Sgt. Jose M. Lopez, 89, both World War II veterans, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Louis R. Rocco, 60, who received his award for actions in Vietnam. The crowd gave a Texas-sized cheer for these three men.
An announcer told their stories.
"On a cold winter day in Belgium in 1945, Army Sgt. Jose Lopez, a native of Mission, Texas, saved his entire company from being surrounded by enemy troops. Under heavy tank and artillery fire, Sgt. Lopez mobilized and manned a heavy machine gun by himself, holding off hundreds of advancing soldiers and preventing their attack from flanking and overwhelming his badly outnumbered company.
"Lucian Adams, a native of Port Arthur, Texas, served as an Army Staff Sergeant in World War II. In France in 1944, Staff Sgt. Adams bravely charged a superior enemy force, dodging behind trees to escape intense fire from machine guns and grenade launchers. Staff Sgt. Adams single- handedly defeated a specialized force, destroying three machine guns, and reopened critical supply lines to his isolated battalion.
"In 1970, Army Warrant Officer Louis Rocco, a resident of San Antonio, was shot down over the jungles of Vietnam during a dangerous mission to rescue critically wounded soldiers. Warrant Officer Rocco, suffering broken bones and braving heavy enemy fire, jumped repeatedly into the burning wreckage of his helicopter, rescuing all of the survivors of the crash and saving the lives of his comrades."
In addition to the Air Force cadets, soldiers of the 323rd Army Band and the 49th Armored Division Color Guard and Honor Guard participated in the half-time ceremony.
And, in the end, the ‘Wolves won 108-102.