For U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Richard Boomer and his family, avid Sharks fans and season ticket holders since 2005, their love of the San Jose Sharks and the game of hockey extends well beyond the ice surface at HP Pavilion.
Last night for the Sharks season opener in Edmonton, Richard, his wife Mona, daughter Ashley (turns five years old next month) and son Aidan (16 months), watched their first regular season Sharks game together in over a year from the comfort of their own home.
Despite the disappointing outcome of the game, the Boomer family knows very well that some things are more important than winning or losing a hockey game.
After spending more than a year serving the Marines in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad, Richard returned home to his family on July 21 to catch up on lost time with loved ones. Last night, he was able to not only watch Sharks hockey but enjoy it with the people most important to him.
An 18-plus year Marine and a veteran of several armed conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Boomer most recently served as a senior enlisted advisor for a military training team in southern Iraq. Embedded with Iraqi soldiers, Boomer was the lone U.S. Marine of a Coalition Camp, comprised of British World Marine Commandoes, British World Navy and U.S. Navy members. Boomer provided guidance, counseling and training to the Iraqi team’s commanding officer. Following their training sessions, he would accompany the soldiers on patrol in villages and neighborhoods.
During his time abroad, aside from his family, one of the things Boomer missed most was keeping up with the daily happenings of his favorite hockey team.
In fact, Richard and Mona’s first date many years ago was at a Sharks vs. Red Wings game.
“We both enjoyed hockey before we even met,” said Boomer. ‘While I was in Iraq, Mona would keep me updated on what was going on with the team.”
In recent seasons, the couple began sharing a season ticket package with friends, allowing them to see approximately one-third of the team’s regular season games. Often, it would be just the two of them but on occasion, they managed to secure an additional seat from friends nearby so that Ashley, now old enough to sit and enjoy the game, would attend with them.
One bright side of Boomer’s recent tour of duty was the opportunity presented for Mona to bring Ashley to Sharks games on a more consistent basis. For mother and daughter, those outings served as a reminder and celebration of daddy, although he could not physically be with them.
“We had the tickets so it was a chance for her to go to more games,” said Mona. “We talked about how we wished daddy was here and we also know the people that sit around us so it was good to visit with them.”
At one point last season, Boomer came up with an idea to get a message to his wife and daughter at a game when he knew they would be there. Working through his season ticket representative, Boomer drafted a letter to his wife and family and arranged to have it delivered to their seats at HP Pavilion during the game.
“The Sharks would send out the team’s newsletters and upcoming events through e-mail, which was basically my only point of contact with the team,” said Boomer. “The few times I was able to check my e-mail, I had the idea that since she was going to some games, it would be really nice if I could get them to deliver a letter. I just wanted her to know that I missed her and that I wished I was there, going to the games.”
Who better to make the delivery than S.J. Sharkie, who showed up unannounced one evening to greet a surprised Mona and Ashley with a note from daddy, who was halfway across the globe.
“I was so surprised and I was crying,” said Mona. “Of course, Ashley was excited to see Sharkie! It was really, really sweet. The people behind us were crying too.”
Upon his return, Boomer decided that he wanted to find a way to thank S.J. Sharkie and the organization for helping deliver his message.
And on October 4, the Boomer family met S.J. Sharkie at HP Pavilion and presented the organization with a framed declaration and United States flag that had flown over the headquarters of the Multi National Corps at the Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces.
Click here to see photos.
The declaration reads:
“The Flag of the United States of America
is presented to
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Operation Iraqi Freedon (Al-Faw Palace) Baghdad, Iraq
This certifies that the accompanying flag was flown over
the headquarters of the Multi National Corps – Iraq
in your honor during Operation Iraqi Freedom”
Neil L. Ciotola
Raymond T. Odiermo
Lieutenant General, USA
“Since the Sharks organization did that for me and my family, I wanted to do something special for them,” said Boomer. “This flag is very sentimental and it means a lot to us.”
The Boomer family is excited to take in their first game together this month, likely the October 18 contest against – who else – the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks organization would like to thank Boomer, his family and all of the other great men and women who have and continue to courageously serve our country.