By Jason Lockhart
On a day when members of the United States Armed Forces are honored, General Colin Powell chose to spend Veterans Day at the Nassau Coliseum for Military Appreciation Day.
"I'm here because of my good friend Charles Wang," said General Powell. "We're two New York City guys. I was going to be in New York today anyway, so I looked at the schedule and saw that the Islanders were playing. I knew that Charles would be doing something special for Veterans Day, so I asked if I could come join."
Created last season, Military Appreciation Day is the Islanders way of saying thank you the men and women who have bravely defended, and those who continue to defend our country. General Powell played a major role in this year's Military Appreciation Day by dropping the ceremonial first puck, along with Islanders owner Charles Wang.
While the National Anthem was being played by the Air Force Liberty Brass Band, members of the 106th Rescue Wing rappelled down from the Coliseum rafters with an American flag and the official game puck.
Prior to the puck drop, General Powell addressed the team and wished them luck. Before leaving, General Powell also met with members of the Armed Services.
"It was my first time meeting General Powell," said Lt. Col. Mary Ann Cline of the 106th Rescue Wing. "I'm a great admirer of General Powell, not only when he served as Chief of Staff for the military and Secretary of State, but his whole career in the Armed Forces. It means a great deal to service members that a sports team has recognized the contributions we make to the country. We have a lot of Wing members who are avid Islanders fans."
Leading up to Military Appreciation Day, Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen
had the opportunity to visit the 106th Rescue Wing's base in Westhampton Beach. There they went inside the cockpit of a rescue helicopter and met with military personnel.
Back at the Coliseum, thousands of military personnel were treated as honored guests. Thanks to RexCorp Islanders Inspire's generous ticket donations, and a discount of up to 50% off tickets for military personnel, the Coliseum was filled with brave men and women of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
In addition, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was also in attendance to take in the Veterans Day festivities.
The Islanders Business Club event in the Expo Hall had a military feel to it as well. Members of the Armed Forces were special guests of the IBC, which as always, put on a classy function for its members.
As people entered the Coliseum before the game, Nassau Country Firefighters were collecting clothes for their annual Operation Wounded Warrior program.
"All of the fire departments in Nassau County banded together to show our appreciation for the troops," said Joe O'Grady, Chairman of the Nassau County Firefighters Wounded Warrior program. "We collect care packages and monetary donations and hand them to the wounded soldiers in four different military hospitals. The project started five years ago and each year we try to increase the size of it. With the Islanders involvement we get more publicity and more donations, which is a huge increase over what we had the past five years.
On Saturday, the Islanders' "Hockey With a Heart" campaign, which is taking place for select home games in November and December, continues with Autism Speaks Night at the Nassau Coliseum. Click here
purchase tickets. Click here
to watch an IslandersTV video about Autism Speaks Night.