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Major League Soccer Salutes U.S. Troops at All-Star Game

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2004 – Under the blazing July sun at RFK stadium here July 31, Major League Soccer paid tribute to the men and women of the armed services.

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D.C. United player Freddy Adu signs autographs before the start of the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

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The crowds had begun to gather as the Army Band's soloist Sgt. 1st Class Laura Dause, from Fort Meade, Md., kicked off the double-header with "God Bless America." And then the 1994 World Cup reunion game took center field.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the game that helped launch Major League Soccer in 1996, the USA Legends took on the World Legends. With a little competition, but a lot more camaraderie, the two teams battled through two 25- minute halves only to come to a tie at the end. The score didn't matter to the crowd, which was thrilled to see some of its old favorites on the field again.

Between the Celebration Game and the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game, it was the Army Drill Team's chance to shine during an Operation Tribute to Freedom event. Operation Tribute to Freedom is a program designed to showcase America's support to military men and women fighting the war on terrorism.

With practiced precision, the drill team sweated through its routine of tossing ceremonial rifles like they were mere broomsticks. The crowd was duly awed.

Rachel Tippet, 8, of Dover Air Force Base, Del., said it was obvious the team practiced a lot. "I liked how they stayed in straight lines," Rachel said.

Rachel, who was the winner of the Nickelodeon MLS All-Star Ball Kid contest, said she'd like to be part of a drill team someday. The contest gave her the chance to participate in the day's festivities from the field.

Cpl. Adam Wentzell, of Marine Corps HQ Manpower Reserve Affairs in Washington, said he hadn't known about the Operation Tribute to Freedom pomp and circumstance until he got to the game on a rare Saturday off. But the Marine gave the Army Drill team kudos for their performance.

"I can't speak for the guys overseas, but (a day off is) a blessing," Wentzell said. "They don't get the day off."

He said he sees a lot of support for the troops, but that there's not as much as there could be from some sources. Wentzell has volunteered for duty in Iraq and will deploy in September.

Just before kickoff of the All-Star Game, a District of Columbia National Guard Humvee delivered the game ball to the field, as Staff Sgt. Alvy Powell of the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," sang the National Anthem. As Powell concluded, fireworks erupted from the far side of the field and Black Hawk helicopters flew over the stadium.

By half time of the All-Star Game, the score was 2-1 with the East in the lead. And that was the way the game ended, with the East defeating the West by a score of 3-2.

It was, however, the military that was the overall winner with support from Major League Soccer and its myriad fans.

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Related Sites:
Major League Soccer
Operation Tribute to Freedom
U.S. Army Band

Click photo for screen-resolution imageCpl. Adam Wentzell of Marine Corps HQ Manpower Reserve Affairs, in Washington, gets his souvenir fan autographed by an MLS player. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Field Band soloist Sgt. 1st Class Laura Dause sings "God Bless America" before the kickoff of the Celebration Game. The game was a reunion of the teams that played in the 1994 World Cup. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Army Drill Team demonstrates its skills before the start of the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game. The team's practiced precision wowed the crowed. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Army Drill Team demonstrates its skills before the start of the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game. The team's practiced precision wowed the crowed. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley.   
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