October 28, 2013 at 8:41am
As a way of saying thanks for their service, Pacific Lutheran University is inviting soldiers - active and retired - to attend PLU's final home game of the season free Saturday, Nov. 2.
It's an early Veteran Day's appreciation moment.
"With our close proximity to JBLM, we wanted to do something to recognize our veterans," said Tyler Scott, PLU's sports information director. "We wanted to do something to recognize our veterans in our last home game of the year."
"Just come to the game and get the tickets," Scott said. "Show your military ID and you get in."
So, in addition to the cheers of "Go Lutes," there will be "thank you for your service" comments. A military band will be there and soldiers will present the colors before the playing of the national anthem.
Making this first-time moment a reality was a cooperative effort. Originally, Greg Hollmann, president of a chapter of the Association of the United State's Army, went to the PLU administration to ask if they'd host a welcome home party for returning soldiers with the brigades known as the Triple Nickel. A date was set for that celebration in PLU's gym but then they realized the Lutes had a home basketball game that day.
That's when a day of recognition and free tickets for the football game was suggested.
It's thought to be the first time PLU has had a Veteran's Day game, honoring soldiers.
Making this "day of honor" game was a cooperative effort. Hollmann embraced the idea.
"Without getting too political, the academic world and the military world usually don't have much to do with each other," Hollmann said. "The reason we talked about the football game was we wanted to put soldiers next to students. Get students connected to soldiers. Just them interacting is going to be worth it. That was the original idea."
PLU's president Thomas Krise, a retired Air Force officer, was receptive to the idea.
"We have more than 200 students who are veterans, active duty, reserve, or national guard, and we've hosted many hundreds of GI Bill students since World War II," Krise said. "So, it seems fitting that PLU should express our appreciation for the service and sacrifice of our military service members and their families, and the Military Appreciation Day. The PLU v. UPS game is just the latest way we've found to say, ‘Thank you.'"
After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1983, Krise served 22 years in the Air Force. His father and grandfather were Army medical officers.
This isn't the first time Krise has been receptive to the military. Prior to becoming PLU's president in June 2012, he was a dean at the University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif. At Pacific, Krise started a veterans support committee, which led to providing scholarships to 40 veterans a year.
Krise has already reached out to JBLM.
"They are now going to start a full time faculty position that is for military outreach, military liaison," Hollmann said. "They have decided to become connected to JBLM."
A reception tent will be set up for soldiers to get free drinks at PLU's last home football game Saturday.
Originally, Hollmann asked for a hundred tickets. PLU had a counter offer.
"They came to us and said we want to give you 1,000 tickets," Hollmann said. "We want to dedicate the game to the soldiers."
Hollmann has been busy getting the word out about PLU's Veteran's Day game.
"We really want to fill those thousands seats," Hollmann said.
Depending on Saturday's turnout, this could be the start of an annual Veteran's Day game.
"The way I've been told is that's the goal, that this will be the start of a tradition," Scott said. "Obviously, we'll see how it goes this weekend. It's the type of thing where there'd be no reason why we couldn't do it every year. Our football team is always going to have a home game either the first or second weekend of November. That's right around Veteran's Day. The base is always going to be right next door to us. So why not take advantage of that opportunity."
PLU football coach Scott Westering applauds the inclusion of a Veteran's Day celebration with his team's final home game. His father and long-time PLU coach, Frosty Westering, was a former Marine.
"We're honored to be able to do something like this." Scott said. "It think this is tremendous. I know my dad would be proud of this. It's so neat."
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