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Mariners pay tribute on Memorial Day

SEATTLE -- Thirty military veterans from Western Washington were introduced at Safeco Field prior to Monday's game, and Major Harold Wanamaker of the U.S. Air Force threw out the first pitch for the afternoon's contest with the Angels as part of the Mariners' Memorial Day ceremonies.

Wanamaker, who lives in Bothell, Wash., served in Europe in World War II as a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator bomber that flew missions out of Italy. He was held as a prisoner of war for nine months before his prison camp was liberated by General George S. Patton and the U.S. 14th Armored Division on April 29, 1945.

After throwing the first pitch to Mariners outfielder Cole Gillespie, Wanamaker was joined on the field by his wife of 71 years as the two were greeted by applause from the Safeco Field crowd.

During the mid-fourth inning break, Third Class U.S. Navy Petty Officer Arthur Barnes, also a World War II veteran, was honored with a special "Salute to Those Who Serve" tribute on MarinersVision. Barnes, who now lives in Bellingham, Wash., served on the battleship U.S.S. Tennessee off the coast of Japan in April 1945 when they came under a fierce attack from a squadron of suicide bombers. A direct hit on the bridge of the ship by one of the enemy aircraft left 22 U.S. servicemen killed or mortally wounded, and more than 100 injured.

A non-profit organization called Puget Sound Honor Flight, created to honor America's veterans for all their sacrifices, was at Safeco Field as well to raise awareness for its mission to help transport veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at memorials built in their honor. The trip is free to the veterans and is made possible through individual donations and corporate support.

Both the Mariners and Angels joined in Major League Baseball's tribute by wearing special caps and jerseys featuring the U.S. Marine Corps "Desert Digital" camouflage pattern.

All net proceeds from the sales of the replica caps and jerseys will benefit the Welcome Back Veterans Fund, an MLB partner organization that provides grants to hospitals throughout the country that provide post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury treatment to veterans and their families.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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