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MAYPORT, Fla. -- Sailors aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) attended the Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game between the University of Florida Gators and the University of Georgetown Hoyas, Nov. 9.
However, before the players could finish the contest, condensation on the court caused officials to stop the game out of concern for player safety. The game came to a close after 20 minutes of playing time with the Florida Gators leading 27 to 23.
"We wanted to play," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III told reporters. "We saw a lot of things I thought we could capitalize on in the second half. But once I walked from the baseline to half-court, I realized this is not a safe surface. The kids' safety, both their team and our team, means too much."
Over the course of the preceding week, Bataan's flight deck was transformed from a launching and landing zone for six different types of aircraft during flight quarters, to a basketball court with bleachers holding more than 1,000 people. The Navy-Marine Corps Classic was the highlight of the city of Jacksonville's Week of Valor.
Jacksonville and the surrounding communities have a long tradition of supporting Sailors and Marines. The Week of Valor honors veterans, active and reserve servicemembers, and military families.
"Jacksonville has always been a great Navy town," said the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). "We are moving an amphibious ready group, including a ship like this, to Jacksonville. It is one of the ways we connect the ship to the city and the U.S. Navy to the American people, because when we are doing our job we are usually a long way from home."
During the first half of the game, the audience got an inside look at Navy life when the SECNAV reenlisted seven Sailors. After the re-enlistment oath, players from both teams shook the hands of the re-enlistees.
"Fewer than one percent of America serves in the uniform, they keep the other 99 percent of us safe," said SECNAV. "These seven Sailors who reenlisted are some of the best we have."
"Thank you everyone for making this event possible," said Thompson. "Thank you for hosting us, and to all the Sailors who represent us out here. It's been an unbelievable experience for our guys just to be a part of this event and the fact that the game is ending doesn't take away from that."
Many of the players from both teams agreed the game was a small way for them to give back to the Sailors who defend America.
"It's an amazing experience just to have the opportunity to come out here on a ship," said Otto Porter, team member of the Georgetown Hoyas. "It's just one of those things where we got to come out here and support the Navy and soldiers back home."
Sailors also savored the experience of the Navy-Marine Corps basketball game.
"I thought the game was wonderful," said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman(SW) Brianna Williams, a Bataan Sailor. "I was amazed that they turned our ship into a stadium."
The Week of Valor presented Bataan Sailors with many lasting experiences, including watching the Jacksonville Jaguars practice and play a game against the Indianapolis Colts, participating in a community relations project, and a free concert by country band Little Big Town.
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