Royals honor military with Memorial Day tribute
KANSAS CITY -- It was fitting that, as the Royals marked Memorial Day with Armed Forces Night, that the first pitch was thrown by a soldier from one of the U.S. military's most momentous efforts, D-Day.
That was retired Col. Jack Brooks, 94, who went ashore on Omaha Beach during the World War II invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Col. Brooks also served with the Army's Big Red One in the Korean and the Vietnam wars.
The large crowd witnessed a stirring and often emotional hour-long tribute to the military that culminated with men and women in uniform announcing the starting lineups. The Royals and Astros wore special uniforms themselves, with a camouflage motif on their caps and jerseys.
As the Royals' public-address announcer put it: "We pay tribute to our nation's silent heroes: the men and women of the United States military. Each and every day, these men and women stand up with a strength not known to man, never expecting a reward in return. They possess the valor and honor of what it means to represent the United States Military. ... We celebrate what it means to be an American."
Two Army soldiers -- Lt. Col. Randy Spell and Command Sgt. Maj. Archie Deese -- received bronze stars for exceptional and meritorious service during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
There was a solemn moment of silence in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation. Taps were sounded. There was a 21-gun salute.
The colors, in the form of a giant U.S. flag, were unfurled by men and women from Whiteman Air Force Base. The commanding general of the Army combined arms center at Fort Leavenworth, Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, addressed the crowd.
Two Gold Star families told their touching stories on video -- Jim and Cindy Butler, who lost their son, Sgt. Jacob Butler, and Emily and Isabella Tinsley, who lost a husband and father, Capt. John Tinsley.
Prisoners of war were honored, represented by Staff Sgt. Roy Schenkel, who was held for 13 months by the Germans during World War II. The POW flag was raised in right field.
Representing those who served in wars over the past decades were: Afghanistan, Army Sgt. Phillip Rogers; Desert Storm, Army Lt. Col. Art DeGroat; Vietnam, Army Col. Lynn Rolf; Korea, Army Staff Sgt. Jose Alonzo, and World War II, Naval Petty Officer 2nd Class David Jones, and Army Pfc. Harry Mohan.
The families of military personnel, who give support to soldiers, were recognized, represented by Cindy and J.D. Martin and their son's girl friend, Meredith Kusky.
There were representatives of every branch of the service -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard -- who received game balls from Royals manager Ned Yost and four of his players.
There was inspirational music as the First Infantry Division Band from Fort Riley played "America the Beautiful," Ron Gutierrez sang "God Bless America" and "American Soldier," and Generald Wilson sang the national anthem.
Inducted into the Army were 27 men and women, who took the oath from Capt. Joe Vogel. Four soldiers from Fort Riley were re-enlisted by Col. Mike Morgan.
Melissa Jarboe, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, was shot in Afghanistan and later died, sat in the Buck O'Neal Legacy Seat. She has created the Military Veteran Project to honor military veterans and their families.
A flyover by a squadron of planes preceded the game.
It was a moving Memorial Day evening of remembrance for the military.
"It's always an honor," Yost said.