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by Dana Fjermestad / New York Islanders
The military has always been a major part of America’s rich history and is an integral part of Long Island’s culture.  Many people refer to the Islanders’ home rink as Nassau Coliseum.  Too many forget that the Isles play forty-plus games every season in an arena named in the memory of veterans: Nassau VETERANS Memorial Coliseum.

To honor veterans this year, the Islanders are holding their annual Military Appreciation Day, presented by Northrop Grumman, on Nov. 20. During the 7:00 p.m. tilt, the Islanders organization will recognize both veterans and current servicemen and women in all branches of the military.

“It’s a gift from the New York Islanders that they understand and celebrate the importance of our veterans,” said Fred Nielsen, retired Marine and organizer of the United Veterans Association Color Guard.

A military vehicle display outside the box office will welcome fans to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the United Services Organization (USO) will greet fans on the concourse.  

“USO does a lot of military support,” said Vicki Payne, Corporate Citizenship Manger at Northrop Grumman Corporation.  “They have facilities that provide services for the families members while their loved ones are in Afghanistan or Iraq.”

Many of the fans in attendance will be some of over 1,000 military servicemen and women the Islanders donated tickets to. 

Military Appreciation Day kicks off with all Islanders sporting camouflage jerseys during the pregame warmups. 

“It’s the least we can do,” said center Rob Schremp.  “Hopefully we are bringing some awareness of the importance of honoring the troops who serve our country everyday.” 

Military Appreciation Day hits home for many of the Islanders with friends and family serving overseas.  This event allows them to honor their loved ones in a special way.

“I have some family members that have been a part of the military,” said veteran center and Captain Doug Weight.  “It makes the situation hit close to home.  Each situation is an amazing test for them and their families.  Their service is an incredible sacrifice so it’s always good to acknowledge these men and women when we can.”

After warmups, the Islanders organization, in partnership with Northrop Grumman Corporation, will host a special tribute to veterans and current servicemen and women.  The event will feature the 106th Rescue Wing/New York Air National Guard paratroopers will present the game puck to the referee.  In previous years, former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has performed that duty.  A color guard presentation of the flag will top off the opening ceremonies of the game.

Northrop Grumman is a defense contracting company consisting of a variety of military veterans.  Military Appreciation Day is one of many programs the company participates in to honor veterans and current personnel.  Many of their employees will be in attendance and will be honored for their accomplishments.  Special videos on the center ice videoboard will also recognize soldiers stationed overseas.  

“The message Military Appreciation Day is sending is very educational and (to be) aided by the New York Islanders is absolutely fantastic,” said Nielsen.  “You have to understand your freedoms and where they come from and you have to appreciate the veterans who earned them.  The Islanders hold that particular banner of appreciation very high and I feel ingratiated to them.” 

Northrop Grumman and the Islanders started their partnership during the 2009 appreciation event and both plan to make the spectacle as grand as it was last year.

“Last year was absolutely phenomenal,” said Payne.  “The 106th Airborne (paratroopers) came out of the rafters in full military garb.  They let themselves down on ropes over the ice and were suspended there while the American Flag was open on the ice.  It was just beautiful.”

During the paratroopers’ raid on the coliseum, the color guard will march through the arena and present the flag for the Star Spangled Banner.

Throughout the game, various servicemen and women will appear on the large center ice video board, above detailing their backgrounds in the military and what they have been doing since their time in service.  The Islanders will also recognize retired Marine 2nd Lieutenant Vietnam veteran Ed Aulman for his accomplishments during his military career.  Aulman is one of many military personnel who are being honored at each Islanders’ home game this season as a part of the Cellino and Barnes Veteran Recognition of the Game.  

The Islanders franchise is honored to be recognizing all members of the armed forces on this special day.
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