Former Air Force pilot Walt Sherrell stationed himself in the south end zone of CenturyLink Field Sunday, watching the Seattle Seahawks go through pre-game practice drills.
As a guest of the Seahawks organization for the teams Salute to Service game honoring veterans and active duty service members, the 93-year-old retired lieutenant colonel was perched on the seat of his walker, absorbing the atmosphere of a professional football game.
One by one, a string of Seahawk players walked over to greet Sherrell, who flew C-141 Starlifter cargo planes out of McChord Air Force Base before serving in Vietnam. The veteran politely shook hands with all the athletes as they thanked Sherrell for his military service.
Joint Base Lewis-Mchord Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry was at the game as well. His job that day was to carry the U.S. flag and lead the Seahawks out of their team tunnel and onto the field at game time. But before the game, he simply greeted the players and enjoyed watching his 10-year-old son Landons eyes grow wide as his NFL heroes visited with his father.
And then Sherrell, who retired from the Air Force in 1973, and Petry, who was born in 1979, met face to face.
Petry bent to speak to Sherrell because his hearing isnt what it once was. As Petry leaned down, Sherrell saw the white stars on the sky blue ribbon around his neck. Slowly, instinctively, the aging Air Force retiree stood and saluted Petry. The two service members shook hands and wordlessly shared the bond of brothers in arms.
The generation gap disappeared in their simple act of mutual respect.
Petry attended the game with two other Medal of Honor recipients retired Army Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall, who raised the Seahawks 12th Man flag above the stadium just before kickoff, and JBLM Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, who was honored during the third quarter of the game.
The national anthem provided the opportunity for the biggest display of patriotism during the game military personnel from all service branches at area military bases presented a U.S. flag that covered the entire football field from end zone to end zone. One of those service members was Washington Army National Guardsman Sgt. Zack McKinley, who said he wondered what the catch was when he was asked if hed like to see the Seahawks play at home. Still, its not the worst detail, he said.
How many times in your life are you going to get to hold a flag on the field at an NFL game? McKinley said.
The national anthem was performed by Seattle native Mycle Wastman, who appeared last year as a contestant on the reality show The Voice. Wastman served in the Army from 1990 to 1994, following his active-duty tour with Army Reserve time from 1995 to 1998. He worked as a reserve chaplains assistant at JBLMs Madigan Army Medical Center.
At halftime, 16 members of JBLMs 1st Special Forces Group participated in a Purple Heart ceremony, receiving medals for injuries resulting from combat. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Colbert took grenade fragments to the torso when his base was attacked by a vehicle borne improvised explosive device and a suicide bomber during his fifth and last combat tour in Afghanistan. Colbert said he had recently returned home to JBLM. Even though such a public display of acknowledgment was uncomfortable for him, it still felt good.
Were not used to the spotlight (as Special Forces Soldiers), he said. Were so busy and gone so much, but were doing so many great things.
As part of the Salute to Service campaign, the NFL donates $100 to each of three military nonprofit organizations for every point scored during the leagues 32 Salute to Service games in November. This year, $344,400 will be divided equally among the Pat Tillman Foundation, the United Service Organizations and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Seahawks honor troops with win
The Seattle Seahawks put a cap on the days festivities by crushing the visiting Minnesota Vikings 41-20, making the Seahawks 10-1 for the first time in Seattles history with the best record in the NFL. The Seahawks came out struggling in the first quarter, and just three minutes and 32 seconds into the second quarter, the Vikings tied the score 10-10 with a 38 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Christian Ponder to wide receiver Jarius Wright. But the Seahawks responded with two second quarter scores, a 1 yard touchdown run from Marshawn Lynch and a 19 yard pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide reciever Doug Baldwin in the corner of the end zone. Going into the locker room at halftime, the Seahawks were ahead 24-13.
A scoreless third quarter provided an opening for the Vikings, but three interceptions by the Seahawks on consecutive Vikings possessions halted a comeback, and another touchdown run by Lynch sealed the fate of the Vikings in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Percy Harvin made his debut as a Seahawk in week 10 after recovering from hip surgery. He made a one-handed grab on third down good for 17 yards that set up Lynchs second touchdown run, and returned a kick off for 58 yards in the second quarter that led to Baldwins score just before halftime.