It was a night of firsts for Sgt. First Class Brian Goodheart. His first live Major League Soccer game, the first time he'd spent an evening with the commanding general, and the first time he had stood before more than 19 thousand people to be recognized for his service to the nation.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please turn your attention to midfield and welcome the Commanding General of First Army Division East and Division Command Sergeant Major, Maj. Gen. Kevin R. Wendel and Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin Rodriguez and Sgt. First Class Brian Goodheart and his wife, Michelle," exclaimed the MLS announcer.
Goodheart, his wife Michelle and the First Army Division East leaders took part in a recognition ceremony during the half-time ceremony of the recent MLS All-Star game. Flanked by Wendel and Rodriguez and accompanied by Michelle, Goodheart walked on to the game field as the announcer welcomed him home from a recent deployment.
"Tonight we welcome home and honor a 19-year veteran who recently returned from his deployment in Afghanistan where he was responsible for training Afghan military and police to assume responsibility," said the announcer.
In one word, he felt honored.
"It was truly amazing at how people in our country do care about the servicemembers and the sacrifices that they make," said Goodheart, a native of Portland Maine.
Although he'd never been to a live soccer game, sitting in the stands and watching David Beckham play wasn't Goodheart's favorite part of the night.
"My favorite part was being able to step onto the field in front of thousands of fans. Kind of made me feel like a celebrity," laughed the father of three.
Goodheart, currently stationed with the 72nd Field Artillery Brigade at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J., assists in preparing Reserve Component Soldiers for their deployments around the world as well as assisting their demobilization when they redeploy.
And although seeing Beckham was a thrill for Michelle, seeing her husband being recognized for his service made a bigger impact.
"It made me feel very proud of him," Michelle, a native of Kankakee, Illinois, said." It is amazing how the American public shows appreciation for our soldiers!"
For the rest of the evening soccer fans walked up to shake Goodheart's hand and thank him for his service.
"It makes you feel good inside," Goodheart said of the recognition. "The things you do and sacrifices for your country do not go unrecognized. People care!"
First Army Division East is responsible for the overall mission of mobilizing, training validating, deploying Reserve Component Soldiers around the globe and demobilizing them upon their return home. Last year, First Army Division East mobilized more than 20,000 Soldiers and demobilized almost 26,000.