This past Saturday was Military Appreciation Day in Niner Nation. The festivities included a 28-mile run, flyover, rifle drill and a tribute to a Korean War veteran as well as two World War 2 veterans.
Captain Blake Evans of the U.S. Air Force played a vital role in connecting the ROTC with the Athletic Department to make Saturday a success. The initial plans came together in early September during a meeting with Nick Konawalik, the associate athletic director for marketing.
“It was a whole lot of shots in the dark,” Capt. Evans said. “I dragged two Army captains into Nick Konawalik’s office and we started spit-balling ideas. We ended up with a long laundry list of things we wanted to do and we were able to piece together what happened today.”
The first task the group worked on was the flyover. After their application was accepted, the Charlotte ANG 145th Airlift Wing agreed to provide the planes and execute the flyover that had fans ooo-ing and ahh-ing.
“A lot of awesome people did a lot of awesome things to make that happen as well as it did. It was flawless,” Capt. Evans said.
Also prior to the game, fans got to witness the last 50 yards of a 28-mile run with the game ball performed by cadets in the ROTC program at Charlotte. The marathon began at the steps on the Cornelius town hall at midnight and ended with the delivery of the game ball after the coin toss.
For the cadets that partook in the run, it served as one of the many ways they got to honor veterans.
“I’m going to serve in the future so it’s nice to be able to look up to the people that have served and to be able to honor them,” junior Catherine O’Neil said.
“Being able to do it for the veterans gives us a reminder of why we are here and it reminds us of the sacrifice those before us made,” Isiah Rainey said.
Before the cadets took their place in the stands, they participated in a march with the veterans from the student union up to Jerry Richardson Stadium. Noah Swadener, a cadet in the Air Force ROTC described the experience as “awesome.”
After the band performed at halftime there was a rifle drill honoring the POW/MIA soldiers. There was also a recognition of three war veterans: one from the Korean War and two soldiers from World War II.
“If you listen to their stories, they are absolutely incredible. What they went through for how long they went throw really makes you think about what is important. The big reason why we did that run last night is because waking up at midnight seems like a big task for us, but what those guys did was so much more difficult and trying,” Capt. Evans said. “There is no way we could have a testament to what those guys did.”