TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning will host their annual Military Appreciation Night, presented by USAA, this Thursday, November 16, when the team takes on the Dallas Stars at 7:30 p.m. (FOX Sports Sun, 970WFLA). The game will feature military-themed elements throughout, including on Ford Thunder Alley prior to puck drop. Through the Lightning's Seats for Service program, more than 2,000 servicemen and women from MacDill Air Force Base will attend the game at no charge.
Part of Military Night, presented by USAA, will be an extra special National Anthem performance by MSG Cliff Zalay, U.S. Army (Ret.) on his harmonica. MSG Zalay, 92, served as an Army infantry soldier during World War II and the Korean War. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and was a member of the Allied forces who liberated Dachau. MSG Zalay still works with Honor Flight, sending fellow WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorial built in their honor.
In addition, the Lightning will honor two distinguished military heroes during a pre-game ceremonial puck drop. Those servicemen will be Seaman First Class John Tedesco, U.S. Navy (Ret.) and Lt. General William D. Beydler, U.S. Marine Corps Commander. Seaman Tedesco enlisted in the Navy in 1943 just after his 17th birthday. He served in Pacific theater where his unit was tasked with building a new hospital on the island of Munda to accept casualties for the impending USMC Assaults on Guadalcanal, Munda, Bouganville and the Gilbert Islands. Enemy forces attempted to stop this advancement, and in the ensuing barrage, Seaman Tedesco lost a major part of his hearing. Lt. General Beydler is a 36-year veteran of the USMC, currently stationed at Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base. He has logged approximately 4,000 flight hours in tactical jet aircraft. Lt. General Beydler has served in his current position at MARCENT since October of 2015. His many honors include the Defense Superior Service Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal with three Gold Stars.
During the pre-game warm-ups, the Lightning will wear special camouflaged jerseys. Those jerseys will have the name of an honorary service man or woman currently serving at the United States Central Command at MacDill AFB embroidered on the sleeve. After the game, the military members will be welcomed to the ice where each player will sign their respective jersey.
Members of the military will watch warm-ups from the Lightning bench, the penalty box and participate in the pre-game "High Five Tunnel" when the players hit the ice. Fans will be able to see a number of military vehicles on Ford Thunder Alley prior to the game, including a WWII Willis Jeep and three U.S. Army Trac Units.
Other in-game elements will include a moment of silence, military-themed Community Hero, a USAA Standing Salute, as well as a special check presentation featuring Chase and Operation Homefront. In addition, fans will be able to sign 'Holiday Cards for Troops' on all levels of the concourses, thanks to The Duncan Duo at RE/MAX.