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10 enlist at M’s Army birthday party

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:11PM June 19th, 2014

When a young man or woman takes the Oath of Enlistment to join the United States military, the usual setting is not in front of more than 22,000 baseball fans as it was for 10 enlistees June 13 at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Lieutenant General Stephen R. Lanza, commander of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, swore the new enlistees into the Army.

The swearing was part of the pregame ceremonies prior to the Seattle Mariners playing against one of their American League West Division rivals, the Texas Rangers. It was part of the Mariners’ honoring the Army’s 239th birthday.

The enlistees were from Tukwila, Renton, Tacoma and other parts of the Puget Sound. The group would have taken the oath to serve at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Center Station, about three miles south of Safeco Field.

Lanza said he couldn’t think of a better way to bring enlistees into the Army than by having them in front of the people they’re going to serve.

“What a great thing for these kids to be at a baseball game, America’s pastime, and to enlist them on a baseball field, and do it in front of their families,” Lanza said.

“It’s good that we’re doing something different from a normal swear-in,” said John Peterson of Tukwila, who is joining the Army days after graduating from Hazen High School.

All 10 young men and women are scheduled to attend basic training; from there they could be assigned anywhere across the U.S.

For Lanza, swearing in new enlistees is always an honor because it allows him to see the investment in the future of the Army and look into the eyes of aspiring service members as he reads them the oath.

“I get to see the look of anticipation, satisfaction and promise, and I get to see the love in their parents’ eyes that their young men and women get to serve our nation,” Lanza said.

While celebrating the future of the Army, the Mariners invited Spc. John Bolan of JBLM’s Warrior Transition Battalion to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

A native of Portland, Bolan was with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division when he was shot three times in the back Jan. 8, 2012, in Afghanistan.

“It’s really a dream come true to come to this field,” Bolan said. “I’ve been watching the Mariners since I was a kid — even from Portland.”

Throwing from in front of the mound, his pitch made it to the plate to infield coach Chris Woodward. Beforehand, he found himself standing next to Mariners legend Edgar Martinez, who was there with a representative of the Edgar Martinez Foundation.

Bolan smiled as he was able to get a photo taken with Martinez, who had 2,247 career hits and a .312 average during his 18 years playing in Seattle.

“It’s just cool to be where he has stood before,” Bolan said.

Lanza said it was a chance not only for the new enlistees, but for the general public to see that the men and women of the armed forces will continue to need the nation’s support both in the Army, and when they transition.

“I think it’s important we don’t forget, and I think it’s important as we come out of Afghanistan that we remember those who have sacrificed like Specialist Bolan,” Lanza said.

I Corps’ Soldiers also had person-to-person interaction with fans, as they greeted them entering the stadium through the Home-Plate Entrance. The I Corps Army Band’s jazz ensemble played for one hour after the gates first opened near the top of the stairs leading to the main concourse.

The Army Band also performed the National Anthem while the I Corps Color Guard brought out the colors between second base and the pitcher’s mound. Both on the concourse and on the field, Lanza said the Army Band articulated the Army’s message for the fans in attendance.

Lanza, a Brooklyn native who grew up watching the New York Yankees, said he was happy that his Soldiers were able to enjoy a baseball game where Seattle’s ace pitcher Felix Hernandez took the mound for the Mariners.

“I’m like a little kid tonight,” Lanza said.

Despite “King Felix” throwing eight and a third innings, allowing one run on four hits with six strikeouts, the Texas Rangers won the 1-0 shutout. Rangers’ Adrian Beltre batted in the lone run with a fielder’s choice that brought home Elvis Andrus in the top of the ninth inning.