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'First Fan' Sees Washington Nationals Salute Military

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2005 – With President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on hand to enjoy a night of major league baseball, the first-place Washington Nationals paused to honor the military before the team's interleague game against the Toronto Blue Jays at RFK Stadium here June 24.

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The Army gained 10 new recruits during an enlistment ceremony held at RFK Stadium before the Washington Nationals game against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 24. Army Brig. Gen. Mary Kay Eder administered the oath. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Operation Tribute to Freedom, Welcome Home and a celebration of the Army's 230th birthday began with a performance by the U.S. Army Drill Team.

As the sun glinted off the drill team's bayonets, the soldiers drew gasps and then cheers from the crowd with their precision.

As they left the field, the focus shifted to 10 young men on hand to take the oath of enlistment.

All 10 thought the fact that the Nationals and their fans had extended their hospitality and gratitude was fantastic. For Joseph Watts-Johnson, however, the night honoring the military struck a much more personal note.

"It means a great deal to me because my father and grandfather both served," Watts-Johnson said.

Brig. Gen. Mari K. Eder, the Army's deputy chief of public affairs, administered the oath. Then she joined Staff Sgt. William Patterson, Operation Enduring Freedom Veteran and Sgt. 1st Class Louis Witt, Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, on the pitcher's mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

"What could be better than baseball and the Army?" Eder asked. "I'm so proud ... of how much America supports (the military)."

Some servicemembers, like Sgt. 1st Class Alex Maly, who participated in the singing of the national anthem with the U.S. Army Chorus, were happy to be there at the invitation of the ball club.

"I think it's absolutely fantastic that the Washington Nationals ... have extended an invitation to the military," Maly said. "(It's) a real nice pat on the back from the Washington Nationals."

Even the players said the tribute to the military was well deserved.

"It's very important what those guys do for us and the sacrifice they make," said Nationals second baseman Jamey Carroll

The Army Continental Color Guard and the Army Command Exhibition Parachute Team, the Silver Wings, also participated in the festivities. Two members of the Silver Wings parachuted into the stadium.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageScreech, the Washington Nationals' mascot, expressed his appreciation for the military during the club's Operation Tribute to Freedom, Welcome Home event before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 24 at RFK Stadium in Washington. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageWashington Nationals second baseman Jamey Carroll said events honoring the military for the purpose of recognizing servicemembers' sacrifices are very important. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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