On Veterans Day, and with the Islanders hosting Military Appreciation on Nov. 16, Scott Mayfield will be thinking about one solider in particular.
Mayfield's older brother, Patrick, is a captain in the US Air Force, currently stationed at Aviano Air Base in north eastern Italy. He's an F-16 fighter pilot and while he's a half a world away from the Islanders defenseman, he's always on Mayfield's mind.
"It takes a different person to choose that as their career," Mayfield said. "We're just having fun playing a game and he's doing stuff that's meaningful, going out there and putting his life on the line. All of them are."
Patrick went to the US Air Force Academy, then flight school and was stationed in South Korea before Italy. He hasn't been called into Iraq or Afghanistan, which Mayfield is thankful for, but his family lives with the constant knowledge that he could be called into harm's way at a moment's notice.
"There's always scenarios where he could have to fly out right away, so it's definitely a little nerve-wracking," Mayfield said. "Even watching him take off, you get teary-eyed. I'm a little used to it and my parents are used to it."
Mayfield went to visit his brother in South Korea when he was stationed there a little over a year ago. The Korea deployment was the most on-edge the family has been. It was one of the first times Mayfield felt like his brother was too close to danger, especially after they visited the demilitarized zone, the 2.5 mile wide fortified border that separates North and South Korea.
"That was a little eye opener with all the tension that was going on a couple years ago that's escalating now," Mayfield said. "It's definitely nerve wracking. I'm sure my parents worry here and there, but like I said, he loves it."
Mayfield said his brother fell in love with the Air Force when they were kids and first visited the Air Force Academy for a youth hockey tournament. Patrick knew he wanted to go to the Academy one day and even at an early age had a sense patriotism and duty, going to his mom the morning after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and telling her that he wanted to defend his country.
"He really feels like he was born to do it," Mayfield said. Good for him. It's pretty special having him do that stuff and being so close to it."
Patrick was a goalie and still finds time to play occasionally - depending on where he's based. Patrick has flown training missions around the United States, in places like Colorado and Texas, though Scott isn't always privy to everything his brother does.
Scott said he had no idea how demanding some of Patrick's training and education were until he tried it himself. The two of them went head-to-head in a flight simulator and Scott said he didn't last too long against his brother.
The Islanders host a veteran at most of the team's home games and are treating a group of servicemen and women to their game against Carolina on Nov. 16 - Military Appreciation Night. They'll wear special military-themed warmup jerseys that have already been auctioned off. Mayfield said he's sent a few to his brother overseas in year's past.
"When we have people at the game, when we see those guys, I can relate to it a little more," Mayfield said. "But I think it's special for everyone. Everyone realizes what they do."