Soccer Team Shows Military Appreciation
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 20, 2004 As military jets flew overhead and a D.C. National Guard helicopter circled above RFK stadium here June 19, spectator Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Briscoe said it for everyone present: "There's definitely no place like America."
Dylan O'Donnell, 9, Joey Gaines, 7, and Ellen Gose, 8, take
part in Armed Forces Appreciation Day celebration by helping carry out the
Operation Tribute to Freedom banner at RFK stadium in Washington June 19. Photo
by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"We have freedoms here that I think a lot of Americans take for granted, and I think the soldiers that are coming back from Iraq realize that those freedoms are definitely worth fighting for," Briscoe said."
He was a guest of the D.C. United soccer team, which hosted the fifth annual Armed Forces Appreciation Day in the nation's capital to show its support for the military as part of Operation Tribute to Freedom. OTF started Memorial Day 2003 as a way for communities across America to show their appreciation to the troops.
The D.C. National Guard and several military-related and community organizations also took part in the event.
Soccer fans came to see a match between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew, which the home team won 3-1. They also came to say they too appreciate the "freedoms" Briscoe spoke of and the service members fight for in places such as Iraq.
Briscoe, 36, of the 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell Ky., lost his left arm and had a severe damage to his right one -- in a grenade attack near the Syrian border town of al-Kiem, Iraq, on Oct. 31, 2003. He is recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
He was one of several wounded soldiers who ventured outside the hospital confines to enjoy a day of food, music and soccer.
Briscoe said that today's event proves that the country "supports its troops and their mission."
"Whenever organizations or sports teams show their appreciation for the armed forces, it shows that the country is behind us and it really makes you feel proud about what you are doing," he said.
Beth Bradner, director for development, marketing and events for the United Services Organization of Metropolitan Washington, said the USO had distributed some 600 free tickets to the local military community.
Among those invited were wounded service members. "For the service members, especially those in the hospital, it's so great for them to get outside of the four walls," she said. "A lot of these soldiers have been injured and are recovering from wounds, and sometimes that's a long recovery period. So to be able to get out and let the American public show their support is vital."
Brig. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, deputy commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said that it is important for the American public to show support for the military.
"When you have men and women in harm's way, away from their families -- and in the case of the Guard and Reserve -- away from their jobs, events like this show the families and the service members that they are really appreciated for what they do," he said. "So today's event is a real big thing for us (the military)."
That's the reason too the day's events brought out veterans like Ransom Jordon, Jr., in support of the ceremonies. He's the national sergeant at arms for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a foundation that aids wounded and injured service members.
Ransom said he earned two bronze stars and three Purple Hearts while serving three tours in Vietnam. He was on hand to help present three D.C. Army National Guard soldiers with lifetime memberships to the foundation. They were Sgt. Antionette Scott, Sgt. Timothy Abele and Cpl. Dwayne Frost, all of the 547th Transportation Company.
Scott received shrapnel wounds after her convoy vehicle received a direct hit from an improvised explosive device in Iraq. She was transporting soldiers to the Baghdad airport for rest and recuperation leave. Miraculously, she said she was able to maneuver her vehicle through the attack. "I was able to keep it on the road, say a quick prayer, and not have any other casualties other than myself," Scott recalled.
A married mother of four, she said she is thankful her unit went through "long hard training" before deploying. "We took our training seriously," Scott said. "And I was able to put that training into use out there on the road. I thank God that I'm here to tell my story."
Meanwhile, despite the day's special events, Ransom said that service members are still not appreciated enough. As a Vietnam vet he said he was welcomed home unceremoniously decades ago, but he added the situation is getting better.
"I see there are organizations that are doing a whole lot more for our veterans, a whole lot more," Ransom noted, "but we can do even more."