NEW YORK -- Marines joined other service members in celebration of Military Appreciation Day at Shea Stadium on Sunday when the Mets hosted the Cincinnati Reds.
The first pitch of the game was thrown by former Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Combs, a New York state native who was forced to have his left arm amputated after sustaining combat injuries in Iraq in August 2006.
“I haven’t been practicing, but I know I can’t do any worse than Cincinnati’s mayor,” Combs laughed before the game, referring to Mayor of Cincinnati Mark Mallory, who threw a first pitch for his home team that was somehow tossed sideways and past the foul line.
A joint-service color guard was present at center field for the pre-game ceremony. Marines and other services also participated in unfurling a large U.S. flag alongside retired service members with the American Legion. After a performance of the national anthem, a flight of four FA-18 Hornet jets flew over the stadium. The jets were piloted by Marines with Marine Aircraft Group 31, stationed in Beaufort, S.C.
A large part of the pre-game ceremony was dedicated to fan donations to Operation Gratitude. The donations, including phone cards, DVDs, CDs, stuffed animals, disposable cameras, batteries, baseball caps, and lip balm, will find their way into care packages for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan
Operation Gratitude is a part of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad, according to their Web site.
The Mets finished the game with a 5-2 victory over the Reds.