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K-State Recognizes National Armed Forces Day
US Army Capt. Chris Lamar throws a ceremonial first pitch before the game against Texas at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on May 17, 2014. Lamar recently returned from a nine month deployment to Afghanistan. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
May 18, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Special Note: Today's Sports Extra is written in memory of U.S. Army Col. John M. McHugh who, on this day in 2010, gave his life while defending his country in Kabul, Afghanistan. A loving husband, son, brother, friend and fellow sports lover; this one is for you, Dad.
To my father and all who have served and continue to serve, thank you.
- Kelly McHugh
A mix of both purple and camouflage filled Tointon Family Stadium yesterday evening as K-State baseball celebrated National Armed Forces Day during the Wildcats' 5-4 win against the No. 18 Texas Longhorns.
From a special welcome home opening pitch to Willie Wildcat sporting his best set of BDUs, the Wildcats showed appreciation to all service members, veterans and families in attendance of yesterday's game.
A K-State alumnus and die-hard Wildcat fan, United States Army Captain Chris Lamar had no idea what was in store for him when his wife, Suzanne, told him she was taking him to yesterday's game. Season ticket holders, Suzanne and their two daughters, Ava and Lucy, enjoyed attending K-State baseball games during Chris' nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Knowing he'd be home in time for the Cats' last few games, Suzanne began thinking of ways to make Chris' welcome home extra special.
"I have season tickets and the kids are in the Junior Wildcat Club and have done the Play Ball Kid at games while he was deployed, so I said, 'We need to get Chris in on that pitchers mound when he gets home to do a first pitch," explained Suzanne with a smile as she glanced at the soldier she had spent the previous nine months away from.
It took a few months of planning between Suzanne and K-State Athletics, but before he arrived home from Afghanistan, the date was set or Chris' first pitch - May 17, Military Appreciation Day.
When he returned home from deployment on April 26, the family kept the first pitch a secret until yesterday afternoon.
"I was surprised," said Chris after throwing the game's opening pitch. "It's an honor, it really is. It's great to be recognized, and it's great how much K-State supports (Ft. Riley) and all of its soldiers over there."
Also in attendance of yesterday's game was World War II Navy veteran, John Brooks. A true American hero, Brooks served as a US Navy SEAL from 1943-48 and was a part of a major mission on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 - D-Day - where, of his 96-man SEAL team, only 16 lived through the mission.
The 90-year-old Green, Kansas, native said he listens to all of K-State's games on the radio but was especially happy to have the opportunity to attend yesterday's game with his wife, Wilma.
"I appreciate being asked to come here," said the former Navy SEAL who was proudly wearing a US Navy baseball cap with a purple K-State polo. "I made sure to wear my purple today."
During the game's second inning, Brooks was announced over the Tointon Family Stadium PA system and received a warm thank you and round of applause from all in attendance.
"He is a really special person," said K-State Athletics Director John Currie about Brooks. "He's incredibly energetic, and the remarkable thing about him is he didn't only do D-Day, he did so many landings not only in Europe but all over the Pacific. The 70th anniversary of D-Day is in a few weeks here, so what a great opportunity to recognize one of the last people who made it through that incredible, momentous day in our history."
John Brooks, 90 years old, from Wamego, Kansas, watches K-State compete against Texas at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on May 17, 2014. Brooks, a former Navy Seal, is a veteran of D-Day. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
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