For the past several years at STAPLES Center, the club’s popular “Hero of the Game” program has been front-and-center at Kings games.
Presented by Northrup Grumman in association with the USO of Greater Los Angeles, our Hero of the Game program is a season long commitment made by the Kings to pay tribute to local military personnel and their families. The Kings host one military family at each home game to enjoy the game experience and show our gratitude for their continued commitment and sacrifice.
As the Northrop Grumman Hero of the Game, those that are honored are treated to dinner in the Lexus Club prior to the game and then they are recognized on ice during the National Anthem and again during the second period.
Sergeant Ryan Artuso is a recent honoree. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in February of 2005 and retired from active service on September 29, 2011. Sergeant Artuso was deployed to Haditha, Iraq, as a rifleman. His personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device, the Navy Achievement Medal and the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Q: You were out there on the ice in full uniform. How did that feel?
A: Yeah it was pretty nice, rather different. I’ve never done anything like that before.
Q: Since returning from Iraq, was this one of the highlights?
A: Everything was more family oriented and small. When I got home we always have a homecoming party and stuff, like 10-20 people, but nothing like that.
Q: How did this come about for you?
A: My roommate actually reached out to the Kings about it. He had seen it before. He told me three or four days ago saying, Hey, I’d be good for this,’ He got through and your community relations director called me and asked me if I’d be available Saturday night, and I said, ‘I’ll make myself available.’
Q: Were you familiar with it had you been to a game or was it all new to you?
A: It was all new to me. I grew up in Maryland, got stationed out here a couple years ago, I never had a chance to watch any Kings games or something like that.
Q: Are you a sports fan on the whole?
A: Mostly rugby. I grew up playing rugby and I played in college and afterwards in the Marine Corps. I also love hockey back home.
A: Oh yeah.
Q: Can you talk about your role as a rifleman in the Marine Corps and what does that kind of entail to someone who doesn’t have a complete grasp of what that job is?
A: Basically it’s the infantry; it’s the guys running around with guns from house to house doing that kind of stuff.
Q: What kind of training goes into that specific detail?
A: You go to school for infantry where you learn basic infantry tactics. What you basically learn in the Marine Corps as an infantryman is from Corporals and Sergeants, like myself and the one rank lower than me, we run the Marine Corps and you train all of your guys so the majority of the marines are Privates, Lance Corporals, stuff like that. So like your first four years then you get out, but those guys in their first four years are getting trained by Non-Commissioned officers who are 22 or 23 years old so that’s where you get your training from, these other guys mentoring you and taking you through the same things over and over until it becomes muscle memory.
Q: I understand you received numerous awards. Is there an award you’re most proud of, one that stands out to you for a particular reason?
A: Probably the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. I do volunteer work with a program called Young Marines where kids eight-18 its part of a drug education program back during the Reagan Administration, it’s something that helps keep kids off drugs. We teach them about communications, navigation and leadership. It’s mostly leadership, confidence and public speaking, and we’ll go camping and hiking with them. That’s probably what I’m most proud of.
Q: Your dog’s name is Charlie. What’s his role?
A: He is a specialty service dog. I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and he helps keep me grounded, keeps me calm. If I need him I can touch him. He can get me out of uncomfortable situations. I can just lie and say he needs to use the restroom and excuse myself. He’s a non-confrontational way to remove myself from situations. He’s awesome.
For more information, visit LAKings.com/hero.