Proposal highlights Memorial Day festivities in KC
Royals honor retired, active military members throughout game vs. Cards
KANSAS CITY -- Senior Airman Ben Akers had a very special Memorial Day. Not only were he and all other active members of the military honored by the Royals, he watched the game with his new fiancé, Kirsten Opperman.
Facing a possible deployment next April, Akers started planning his surprise last month, and before the Royals took on the Cardinals on Monday, he proposed.
"We've been planning the wedding for November, so I knew it had to be someday soon, but I didn't think he'd do it like this," Opperman said, her hands still shaking.
Akers called the Royals' front office in April and asked if he could publicly propose during the Armed Forces Day celebration, and they approved.
"The hardest part was keeping it from her," Akers said. "She has always been there for me through everything, training, whatever it was. She was always there, and it was about time to tie the knot."
It was a perfect start on a day meant to honor the military and their families.
Across the Majors, teams spent the day recognizing veterans and active military for their service with alternate camouflage uniforms and special pregame events.
"You always have people coming up to you if they see you and saying, 'Thank you,' but seeing so many people out here, it means a lot," Akers said. "It helps us get through the days whenever it gets hard, because we know people are behind us."
The Royals gave out miniature American flags to the first 20,000 fans, courtesy of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. Manager Ned Yost and a group of players presented game balls to representatives from each of the five branches of the military on the field and recognized wounded warriors. A photo compilation video played to recognize military currently serving overseas.
The representatives stayed on the field and presented balls to World War II veterans Chief Master Sergeant Retired Charlie Sibert and Sergeant Retired Robert Riley, who threw out the first pitches.
"It is a great honor to be recognized like this," Sibert said. "It made me very happy."
Sibert enjoyed seeing all the active military personnel and wanted to thank them for serving the country.
"I appreciate them, I appreciate every one of them," Sibert said.
The Royals continued to recognize members of the military throughout the game, showing in-game features and messages from each player between innings on the scoreboard.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com.