• Monday, March 24 (6 to 9 p.m.)– Live batting practice for veterans, hosted by pitcher Charlie Morton, with Pirates Players, Coaches and Broadcasters.
  • Family BBQ picnic after batting practice.
  • Tuesday, March 25 (10:45 a.m. to end of game)– The Pirates hosted the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. at McKechnie Field.
  • The veterans group began the day with a pregame picnic on the Boardwalk and a special on-field recognition ceremony and check presentation to Team Red, White and Blue and the Wounded Warriors Project

It’s always a special thing when our service men and women are honored publicly, but something about professional sports makes them the perfect setting for ceremony.

SSgt. Nathan Bellardini (right) and two of his comrades

SSgt. Nathan Bellardini (right) and two of his comrades

Part of this reason may be that, besides the fame and fortune, professional athletes are easy to align with– especially if you’re already a sports fan. Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) Nathan A. Bellardini said that it “means a lot” to see the military honored at the biggest stage in sports. “It feels good to see people I can relate to– not like politicians, but actual athletes sending their thanks and best wishes.” Bellardini has been to Iraq twice and is currently in South Korea for about ten more days, before he returns home to his wife and kids in Ft. Hood, Tex.

Sophomore student and Army ROTC member at St. Bonaventure Rob Mills also expressed his appreciation of remembering vets in professional sports. “It means that the military is not forgotten,” Mills said, “including all of those who serve and their families.”

I’d like to take this moment to personally thank any veteran that happens to come across this article somehow– both those still with us on Earth, and those watching and waiting for us in Paradise. There are a lot of things about this country that I love that probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your dedication and complete selflessness. I can only hope to inspire one person in my lifetime the way you’ve all inspired me.

God bless the United States of America.

US_Flag_Backlit

Wikimedia.org photo

-Vinnie Bellardini