America Supports You: Women’s Basketball Salutes Troops, Families
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 16, 2007 The Women’s National Basketball Association showed its support for the military by giving out 2,000 free tickets for U.S. servicemembers and military family members to attend this year’s All-Star Game held yesterday at the Verizon Center here.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson (center), director of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs, participates in a pre-game ceremony with players at the Women’s National Basketball Association’s annual All-Star Game held at the Verizon Center, Washington, D.C., July 15. Defense Dept. photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
To further honor women serving in the military, the WNBA invited Air Force Brig. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson to attend the game. Johnson, a former star player on the Air Force Academy’s women’s basketball team and a member of the academy’s athletic hall of fame, participated in a ceremonial tip off.
“It’s fabulous the WNBA would be so generous and invite so many military members and their kids,” said Johnson, the director of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs. Parallels between sports and the military are “immense,” she noted, citing shared values of teamwork, setting goals and working for a greater good.
WNBA leaders and players “do great things for their communities,” Johnson said. “I love it that they’re reaching out to the folks here.”
Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne also attended the game. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Casey Elliot, a vocalist for the U.S. Navy Band, was accompanied by a Joint Service Color Guard as she sang the national anthem before the game began.
The Women’s NBA is proud to honor America’s servicemembers and their families, said Donna Orender, the association’s president.
“The WNBA really believes in thanking all of the service people, because we truly believe that they not only support, but also help to create our way of life and preserve it,” Orender said.
Members of the crowd were encouraged to support U.S. troops by a pre-game announcement over the Verizon Center’s public address system informing the crowd about the Defense Department’s America Supports You program. The program connects servicemembers and their families to individuals, groups and companies that provide support and assistance. There are more than 250 ASY homefront groups, as well as a multitude of corporate sponsors.
The WNBA also has been "thrilled" with America Supports You, Orender said, noting it “is a great outreach program that allows every American to let our troops know that we are behind them, and I think that is very important.”
Young beneficiaries of the America Supports You-affiliated group “Kids Serve Too” participated in pre-game activities and later welcomed the All-Star players as they took the court. Kids Serve Too sends thank you cards and letters to children of deployed servicemembers. Families from all branches of the armed services can request a letter for their children at www.saluteourservices.org.
Andrea Hall appreciated that Kids Serve Too sent cards to her children to thank them for their father’s service in Afghanistan in 2005. “I think that military families need all the support that they can get,” she said. “America Supports You acts on that.”
Wilda Ferguson, a member of another military family that attended the All-Star game, also is grateful for ASY and other kinds of family-member support. Her Virginia Army National Guard husband, Lt. Col. John Ferguson, just returned home after serving a year-long tour of duty in Iraq. John and Wilda Ferguson attended the All-Star Game with their twin 6-year-old daughters, Devin and Julia.
“People don’t realize just how tough it is to have somebody deployed,” Wilda said. “You try not to worry and do all the things that you need to do in order for him not to be worried about things on the home front so he can do what he needs to do while he’s overseas.”
The Eastern Conference All-Stars beat the West’s squad, 103-99, in the annual All-Star showdown.