A salute of thanks

Posted Nov 17, 2013

The Seahawks will hold their “Salute to Service,” honoring those who have served and are serving in the military, at today’s game against the Vikings. But for first-year Seahawk O’Brien Schofield, giving thanks is 24/7 and 365.

O’Brien Schofield doesn’t need one day to remember to give thanks to those who have served and are serving in the military. For the Seahawks’ defensive lineman/linebacker, it’s an everyday affair.

“I appreciate the military all year round,” said Schofield, who was claimed off waivers by the Seahawks in July after playing his first three NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

That’s because his father, Anthony, was in the Navy for 23 years – and Schofield was a member of ROTC at North Chicago Community High School, while his father was stationed at Great Lakes, Ill. Anthony Schofield just retired last year.

“The military plays a significant role for me and my family, obviously,” O’Brien Schofield said. “But just in general, they work so hard just to give us liberty and to be able to play ball, do the things we do and feel our country is secure – that we’re secure.

“So hats off, and just the biggest appreciation to them. I definitely have the utmost respect for them and everything they do for us; and what they stand for and what they’re about.”

Schofield was at “Salute to Service” games while with the Cardinals, and he’s also sure to thank military personnel whenever they cross his path. But this will be his first “Salute to Service” as a member of the Seahawks – a team and organization he has embraced and learned to appreciate in his short stay.

“I haven’t seen what they’ve done here,” he said. “But I’ve been to a couple different places and seen how different teams appreciate the military, and I know the way they do things here it will be pretty nice.”

Here’s what Schofield, his teammates, the member of the Minnesota Vikings and the 12th Man crowd of 68,000 can expect during a day-long program sponsored by the Seahawks and the USSA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the NFL:

Members of all branches of service from area military bases will present a size-of-the-field U.S. flag during the national anthem, which will be performed by Mycle Wastman, who was in the Army from 1990-94 and then the Army Reserves from 1995-96 as a chaplain’s assistant at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis.

“It’s important to include all branches of the military in the flag presentation, because we want to get everybody involved in this program,” said Armando Mejia, who spent 12 years in the Army before becoming the Seahawks’ fan development international outreach manager. “And we’re going to invite the players, too, to come hold the U.S. flag.”

The color guard will be comprised of members of the Sea Hawkers booster club that have served in the military.

Staff Sargent Leroy Petry, a Medal of Honor recipient, will lead the Seahawks out of their tunnel in the southwest corner of CenturyLink Field. Petry was stationed in Afghanistan with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord when his actions as part of a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target earned him his Medal of Honor.

“I’ve come across Medal of Honor recipients just from the military experience,” Mejia said. “These guys, they’re Medal of Honor recipients but they are like normal people. They’ll tell you they were just doing their job.

“And they love the Seahawks. I know Leroy and he’s so excited to run the team out.”

The honorary co-captain for the coin toss will be 14-year-old Richard Buquin, whose grandfather served in Normandy and at Pearl Harbor.

At halftime, 15 members from the First Special Groups Airborne from Joint Base Lewis-McChord will receive their Purple Hearts during a ceremony on the field.

“It’s going to be really cool for these guys,” said Mejia, who has a Purple Heart. “All them were injured in Afghanistan and each comes with their own war story.”

Mejia’s story is that he needed 22 surgeries after the Humvee he was riding in was hit by an IED (improvised explosive devise) in Iraq on Oct. 29, 2004.

“I’ve got scars everywhere,” he said. “That was a long rehab – looong rehab. I had to learn how to walk and so a lot of things. But I kept going.”

That’s why Sunday’s “Salute to Service” is so important to him, and why he is appreciative of the efforts of USSA in sponsoring it.

“USSA is awesome,” he said. “We have a great partnership with them.”

Blue Thunder, the heartbeat of the 12th Man, will host guest drummers from The First Corps Band, a Joint Base Lewis McChord band that was formed in 1991, goes by “The Heartbeat of America’s Corps” and has performs more than 600 missions each year.

A Howitzer Tank from the Washington Army National Guard will be on display in Touchdown City, and 15 soldiers from Camp Murray will be re-enlisted during a pregame ceremony.

Medal of Honor recipients, including Petry, Ty Carter and Bruce Crandall, will be honored during a moment in the third quarter.

“I think it’s a great statement everybody around the country makes when we recognize the men and women who fight for us and work so hard for us now and in years past,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I love that the league recognizes it. I think it’s a great call for us all to recognize it; some of our young guys need to know that.

“To keep that in mind is a great thing, so I’m proud to be part of that.”