There's a welcoming feeling that comes with fandom, those experiences shared with passionate, like-minded individuals. Eric Burriss wanted to add that extra layer of significance to his reenlistment in the United States Army.
Burris, a staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pitched the idea of taking his oath of re-enlistment at center ice of Bridgestone Arena, home to his favorite hockey team, the Nashville Predators. Of course the Predators were happy to oblige, welcoming Burriss and the entire 101st platoon for a Veterans Day visit.
Burriss celebrated his commitment to the U.S. Army with his family, fellow enlisted service members and the Predators organization in a short ceremony on the ice Saturday.
"The kids were slipping around a little bit - they were having a good time out there - and some of the guys were acting like children, too," laughed Burriss, who was accompanied by his wife, Alisha, and two of the couple's six children, 5-year-old Addison and 6-year old Greyson.
Burriss, originally from Indianapolis, is stationed at Fort Campbell outside Clarksville near the Tennessee-Kentucky border. It was during his first stint at the nearby base six years ago that he watched his first Preds game.
Well, his first hockey game really.
"I'd never watched hockey before and then boom, Predators fan through and through," Burriss said.
After swearing his oath, which will add another eight years to his time with the Army and take him through his retirement, Burriss and the 101st stuck around to take in the Predators' morning skate. They mingled with players and staff on the ice then watched the team prepare for its Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"The places and environments that these guys are in, people don't often get to see that, to see what they do to protect this country," said Predators right wing Craig Smith, a Wisconsin native. "It's humbling, and I'm very fortunate I get to play a game for a living, and a day like this makes me appreciate that even more. It's special."