If you’ve attended a Nashville Predators game at Bridgestone Arena, chances are, you can recall taking part in a special tradition that takes place during the last television timeout of the second period – the military salute.
During the military salute, the Preds honor a veteran or active duty military member in attendance at the game. As part of the recognition, photos of the honoree during their service are shown on the megatron and a brief biography of when and where they served is read, culminating in showing the honoree in attendance at the game.
“It is a deliberate and sincere gesture of appreciation and gratitude that shows a true commitment to all who have served,” Zachary Bell, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant, said.
Bell, an Outreach Specialist at Courage Beyond, a veteran’s organization that provides free mental health services to military members and their families, and a senior at Lipscomb University, works with the Predators in finding different service members to honor during the military salute.
“The best part of sending people to the games is when you get to see how appreciative the veterans truly are and the look on the [faces of the veteran’s] family is the best,” Bell said. “Oftentimes, the children of the veteran’s family were too young to remember their parent’s service, so when they are able to see all that happened during that time, you can see how they are swelling with pride for their parent.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 11, the Predators will face off against the Edmonton Oilers in a Veteran’s Day match-up and in addition to the military salute, will be featuring several special events and promotions.
Along with the selling of limited edition Veteran’s Day autographed “mystery pucks,” the Predators Foundation will be auctioning off camouflage jerseys that the players will be wearing during pregame warm-ups. All the money raised will be given to support local non-profits that support veterans and active duty military.
“We’re taking advantage of the fact that we’re a professional team and we have a lot of people watching us,” Preds General Manager David Poile said. “This is a way to tie back into, not only the community, but also your country. It’s a small way of showing appreciation, but hopefully it’s meaningful and gets more people on board to support these things.”
In addition to supporting team initiatives, after every Predators victory, Poile and his wife Elizabeth donate money to Operation Homefront, an organization that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Poile has been involved with Operation Homefront since meeting organization representatives through his work with the U.S. Olympic team in 2010.
“We have a forum in the sports business to do some things that are very positive,” Poile said. “It’s a great connection for our players and for our fans to show appreciation for what the soldiers have done to defend our country.”
Veteran’s Day, and every time that military salute flashes across the megatron, is an opportunity for fans, regardless of whether they’re a loyal member of Smashville or sporting the colors of the opposing squad, to join together and recognize some of America’s greatest heroes.
For additional information about Veteran’s Day game day initiatives, tickets specials for veterans, active duty military and first responders and how you can get involved, please click here.