The Tampa Bay Lightning will host more than just the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
In town for the holidays, United States Marines twin brothers Jake and Max Gauthier will join Ray Horsley on the Walker organ prior to the puck drop to participate in the singing of the National Anthem as the Bolts prepare to take on the Habs at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Mind you, these are no ordinary Marines.
Max, the elder twin brother by just one minute, lost his leg in late July due to a blast from an improvised explosive device while serving in Helmand Province, notoriously known as one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.
He now walks with a limp, facilitated by use of a cane, and by all accounts, this is considered lucky.
Today, a wooden prosthesis takes the place where his right leg once did, bearing the name and insignia of he and his brother’s unit, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Some of his fingers were even severed, but fortunately doctors were able to sew them back on. He also now suffers from concussion symptoms as a result of the accident, leaving him with memory loss.
Jake, on the other hand, proudly displays a scar on his left cheek that was left from a piece of shrapnel hurled during a firefight this past summer.
As students at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, the twin brothers knew they had always wanted to join the military. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks intensified the desire to serve, and by 2011, both siblings were lance corporals who had trained together at sniper school at Fort Pendleton in California.
They recently returned from Afghanistan to the sight of approximately 200 people gathered at Tampa International Airport to welcome the twins home with roaring cheers and accompanying applause.
On Thursday at the Times Forum, the scene should be no different, with the exception of those in attendance totaling in the thousands, who will undoubtedly show the brothers what it means to “Be The Thunder.”
Surely, it will be a much appreciated gesture, but one that pales in comparison for two men who have shown the rest of us what it means to be a brother.