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SALUTE TO SERVICE

Honor before victory

NFL’s annual event includes massive card stunt, drumline participation, C-17 flyover

Published: 12:43PM November 15th, 2012
Honor before victory

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Seahawks Clint Gresham (49) and Jon Ryan (9) join service members from the various military branches during ‘the Salute to Service’ pregame ceremonies at CenturyLink Field.

Every home game, the Seattle Seahawks Blue Thunder drumline excites the fans with their impressive beats, dance moves and team spirit.

But Sunday’s 28-7 Seahawk victory proved to be more exciting for everyone as seven members of the 56th Army Band, known also as America’s Corps Band assigned to I Corps, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, joined Blue Thunder to pump up the crowd before and during the NFL’s annual Salute to Service game at CenturyLink Field.

This was the third year in a row that a group from the 56th Army Band has joined Blue Thunder for the home game that celebrates Veterans Day, said Keith Rousu, director of music groups for the Seahawks and Sounders.

“This is one of the coolest gigs we do all year,” Rousu said.

Rousu appreciates the military more than some may realize, since his dad served as an aide to an Army general in Vietnam. The band leader felt the impact of his dad’s military service during a 1998 trip to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., about six months before his dad died.

“He recognized somebody about (one in) every four names because he was in charge of their casualty transfer papers,” Rousu said. “It was a really powerful moment for me.”

So when the idea was presented to have drummers from JBLM join Blue Thunder, Rousu welcomed the opportunity.

“They hold our flag every game day,” Rousu said. “I say ‘thank you’ to them all.”

Thanks was not required by the 56th Army Band members, who take roughly a month to learn the Blue Thunder music.

“We really don’t need it, though,” 56th Army Band member Staff Sgt. Mike Brenmark said. “Something like this is all about the groove and having fun.”

The best surprise

Fun was what Brianna Ames was expecting for herself and her 3-year-old daughter, Emersyn, during Sunday’s game. Brianna attended the game because her sister had won tickets and field passes in a military contest — at least, that’s what Brianna thought.

What she didn’t know was that her husband, Sgt. Zachary Ames, had just returned from an 11-month deployment to Afghanistan that morning, and surprised her on the field before the game.

“I thought this would be better than a normal homecoming ceremony,” Zachary said.

The event was two months in the making, and was set up with the help of the Military Sea Hawkers, an offshoot of the team’s official Sea Hawkers booster club, which lets military members near and far away stay in touch with the Seahawks and provide year-round support to the team.

Zachary said he almost didn’t make it, as a mechanical issue with a plane in Anchorage, Alaska, delayed his arrival. But the event happened as planned and according to Brianna, not only was it a good surprise, it was the best surprise.

Salute to service

Events of the day included a 52,500-person card stunt during the national anthem, which transformed the stadium into a massive U.S. flag and “thank you” card for veterans and military service members. The national anthem was performed by U.S. Navy Musician 3rd Class Sarah Reasnerm and was followed by a C-17 Globemaster III flyover, courtesy of the 62nd Airlift Wing from JBLM.

World War II veteran Joe Moser, a native of Ferndale, Wash., raised the 12th Man flag over the stadium. A P-38 fighter pilot who was shot down during his 44th mission over France, he was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and scheduled to be executed.

But the camp was liberated and Moser survived, telling his story in a documentary titled “Lost Airmen of Buchenwald” and in the book “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald.”

Retired Army Sgt. Erin Schaefer, a double amputee, led the team out of the Seahawks tunnel at game time. A graduate of Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Wash., Schaefer received a Purple Heart after suffering injuries in 2010 during his fourth tour to Afghanistan.

“It’s a great honor to be here among the fans and other veterans,” Shaefer said. “I’ve been a huge Seahawks fan for many years. It’s a great feeling.”

During halftime, the Washington Army National Guard presided over a re-enlistment ceremony by Soldiers from Camp Murray, followed by a patriotic-themed performance from the Sea Gals.

Seahawks dominate Jets

The Seattle Seahawks may have provided the best contribution to Military Appreciation Day by thumping the visiting New York Jets 28-7, making the Seahawks 6-4, their best record at this point in the season since 2007. The Hawks mounted an early lead in the first quarter with a touchdown drive that lasted just over a minute. But the Jets responded with a forced fumble by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, which Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson recovered and ran in for a touchdown.

An interception by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman halted a Jets drive at the Seahawks 6-yard line, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, putting the Seahawks up 14-7. The next points came in the fourth quarter, when Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked, forcing a fumble that culminated in a Seahawks recovery. Six plays later, the Seahawks scored to make it 21-7. The last Seahawks touchdown was a handoff from Wilson to wide receiver Golden Tate, who then threw the ball to University of South Carolina star wide receiver Sidney Rice in the end zone.

Lynch had 127 rushing yards for the day, pushing him over the 1,000-yard mark for rushing yards this season and for the fourth time in his career. Wilson now has 11 touchdown passes in five home games this season and no interceptions, compared to four touchdown passes and eight interceptions in five road games.