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Sports Commission Thanks Troops With ACC Championship Tickets

By Army Spc. Ian D. Morales
Special to American Forces Press Service

TAMPA, Fla., Dec. 8, 2008 – Nearly a thousand servicemembers got a big “thank you” gift here Dec. 6 with free tickets to the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship football game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Boston College Eagles.

The Hokies beat the Eagles 30-12, becoming the ACC’s first two-time winner of the championship game. But no matter who they were cheering for, the troops seemed grateful for the tickets to a long-awaited game.

“It’s the most amazing thing ever,” said an Army wife. “I’m a football lover, and I’m glad they took the time to recognize the military.”

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission donated the tickets at Raymond James Stadium to show its support of the U.S. armed forces, to help bring servicemembers and their families together, and to build a strong relationship between the military and the community, commission director Rob Higgins said.

“We knew when we were awarded the ACC Championship a year ago, that we, in conjunction with the ACC, wanted to provide it as an entertainment outlet for several men and women that are serving our country,” Higgins said.

“There is nothing more important to us than the men and women that serve our country,” he added. “So for us to be able to treat them to a few hours away from their duties is just a small token of our appreciation for all that they continue to do for us.”

Many of the troops brought along family members and friends to share the experience of a college championship game.

“I like to come to events like this with my co-workers and family members,” said Army Lt. Col. Denton Knapp of U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base here. “This is great for the Tampa Bay community, and I feel so appreciated.”

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Gonzales, also assigned to Special Operations Command, said he is proud that the community supports the military. He also was surprised at his 50-yard-line seats that were just a couple of rows back from the field.

Navy Commander H.T. “Buck” Buckley, reserve coordinator at U.S. Central Command, also at MacDill, said he was pleased to receive the tickets from the commission, as well as others it has given away to mixed martial-arts fights and other sporting events.

“We were able to contribute tickets to the 2007 ACC men’s basketball tournament and the 2008 NCAA women’s Final Four,” Higgins said. “Our hope is that it will continue to be possible as these events continue to come to our community.”

The commission will host the 2009 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament, the 2009 ACC football championship and the 2009 National Collegiate Athletic Association women’s volleyball championship.

(Spc. Ian D. Morales serves in the 204th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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