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Backes finds deep meaning in veterans visit to Bruins practice

Grandfather of Boston forward served in World War II

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- David Backes didn't get to ask his grandfather, a tail gunner in World War II, all the questions he would have liked to ask.

So the Boston Bruins forward relished getting to talk to a group of veterans after practice Wednesday, a group that included those who served in World War II and the Korean War.

"Pretty cool," Backes said. "Pretty nostalgic of these men and the sacrifice that they've made so that we can have the freedoms we have. To see how appreciative they are, especially the Korean War vets, 'Thank you for not forgetting about the Forgotten War.' That's touching.

"Maybe it means more coming from professional athletes, but just as people and as fellow citizens they deserve to be recognized for all that they've given us."

The Bruins invited 11 veterans to practice and lunch Wednesday after having Military Appreciation Night against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden on Monday. For that game, Bruins players Noel Acciari, Backes, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, Sean Kuraly, Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller, John Moore and Chris Wagner each purchased $2,500 worth of tickets to the game for local military members and their families. They also did a meet-and-greet with the military members at the game.

Tweet from @NHLBruins: As part of #BruinsSalute, some of the B's met with local military members and their families who attended Monday's Military Appreciation Night. 🎥 Check it out on the latest edition of Bruins Bytes, pres. by @SamsoniteUSA:

The Bruins wore camouflage jerseys during warmups. The jerseys will be auctioned at TD Garden during the game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday, and select jerseys will be available for bid online at through Nov. 15. In addition, a signed camouflage Patrice Bergeron jersey can be bid on at

On Wednesday, members of the Bruins filtered through the third floor of Warrior Ice Arena, sitting with the military veterans as they ate pasta, salad and cake, getting a chance to thank them and chat.

Backes, whose best friend growing up was a Marine who now works in a prison, sat with Vartkess Tarbassian, a Korean War veteran. Tarbassian asked Backes about practice, the speed of the game, and about other hockey things.

"Just to sit with the guys and listen to their stories and let them tell what they've been through is pretty touching and pretty cool," Backes said. "That's not lost on any of our guys, that there are people that have been less appreciated than we are in our public positions that have sacrificed a lot more than we ever will."

It was that acknowledgement that meant the world to Tarbassian, 86, who was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and now lives in Framingham, Massachusetts. He had been drafted into the Army after graduating from high school.

"I feel deep thanks as far as being a veteran, the recognition that the Bruins are providing all of us," Tarbassian said. "There's something about the Forgotten War. We haven't forgotten it, the veterans; some of the American public unfortunately has. To attend something like this, it just gives us a realization that we haven't been forgotten. It's the Remembered War."

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