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Major American professional sports teams have long found ways to recognize military servicemembers at their events. In the 9th Coast Guard District, Great Lakes athletes and teams are often acknowledging the service and sacrifice of area Coast Guardsmen.
From throwing the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians baseball game, to dropping the puck at a Lake Erie Monsters hockey game, to being recognized at an annual invitational golf tournament in Akron, Ohio, the sporting public gets their fair share of opportunities to “cheer-cheer” for their Coast Guard.
Recently, Coast Guardsmen assigned to the 9th District were recognized at two different NFL football game in less than one week.
Rear Adm. Mike Parks, commander of the 9th Coast Guard District in Cleveland, was honored at the Monday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, Oct. 22, at Soldier Field in Chicago. The following Sunday, Oct. 28, 12 Coast Guardsmen were honored at the Cleveland Brown’s Stadium during a Hats Off to Our Heroes event during the Browns’ game against the San Diego Chargers.
Parks was selected by the United Service Organizations of Illinois, which has had a partnership with the Bears for the past 10 years. The USO serves as the conduit for selecting military members to participate in the “Bears/Boeing Military Salute.”
At each Bears home game, a deserving member of the military is honored during an on-field recognition during the third quarter. The Military Salute provides the opportunity for the Bears, Boeing, the USO of Illinois and Bears fans to give thanks and show support to the brave men and women who protect our country.
After a brief video was shown on the stadium’s scoreboard, highlighting the history and heritage of Soldier Field and the military, Parks was brought onto the field and welcomed with a standing ovation by more than by 60,000 cheering fans.
“This partnership enables us to reach out to the military community and provide a memorable experience for the participating member, the member’s family and the fans,” said Alison Ruble, President and CEO of the USO of Illinois. “It brings the Bears fans closer to the military community, and the USO of Illinois is honored to be part of that experience.”
Parks was selected for his life-long military career and his leadership to the Coast Guard and his area of responsibility, the entire Great Lakes region, including northern Illinois and the Chicago area.
Following the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the Cleveland Browns created the Hats Off to Our Heroes program to recognize and salute the accomplishments and services of those from the local community.
The Cleveland Browns dedicate each home game of the regular season to honor and salute each branch of the military by hosting a group of servicemembers who represent their respective branch of the Armed Forces in the Browns’ honor row.
To identify the individuals honored during the home games, the Browns work directly with local military branches who determine the respective honorees.
“It was an honor to participate in the event,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Hutton, assigned to Coast Guard Base Cleveland.
At the end of the first quarter, all attention was turned to the jumbotron, where everyone in attendance was able to see the Coast Guardsmen in the honor row. Fans of both teams removed their hats and cheered.
The Coast Guardsmen honored at Sunday’s Browns/Chargers game were:
•OS1 Matthew Walworth, 9th Coast Guard District Command Center, Cleveland;
•MST2 Pete Uselton, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Toledo, Ohio;
•MST3 Jacob Short, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Toledo;
•MST3 Aaron Corbell, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Toledo;
•SK2 Jonathan Thomas, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Toledo;
•SK1 Scott Hutton, Coast Guard Base Cleveland, Procurement & Contracting Division;
•Chief Matt Grant, Coast Guard Base Cleveland, Procurement & Contracting Division;
•IS1 Judy Aguinaga, 9th Coast Guard District Intelligence Branch, Cleveland;
•MK2 Matthew Ellinger, Coast Guard Station Fairport, Ohio;
•BM3 Samuel Papp, Coast Guard Port Security Unit 309, Port Clinton, Ohio;
•BM2 Aaron Burgin, Coast Guard Port Security Unit 309, Port Clinton; and
•Chief Jason Reynolds, 9th Coast Guard District, C4IT Branch, Cleveland.
“The Browns need to have us at every game now, seeing how they won against the Chargers,” joked Hutton about the Browns’ one-point victory over the Chargers.