The Los Angeles Rams dedicated their Sunday Night Football contest against the Chicago Bears on November 17 as their Salute to Service military appreciation game. In the week leading up to the game, the Rams hosted their Salute to Service Week presented by California Resources Corporation, featuring daily activities. Throughout the week (Nov. 11-17), the Rams partnered with veteran service organizations and non-profits to support the military community and to honor, empower, and connect with service members, veterans and their families.
"We wanted to touch on multiple community pillars whether that's homelessness, education, or just being able to come out and be a part of the military community to recognize veterans and active duty service members," said Rams Community Affairs and Player Involvement Manager, ZACH KINKEADE. "It's really a culmination of all our Salute to Service efforts year-round in one week."
The Salute to Service Week activities included: participating in the inaugural Veteran's Day LA outside of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, engaging in a Holiday for Heroes Military Appreciation Campaign in partnership with American Red Cross to decorate holiday cards for active military members and veterans, volunteering at the Veteran's Breakfast at US Vets – Inglewood, teaching a group of disabled veterans how to surf with Therasurf and Higher Ground USA, recognizing a Community Quarterback Winner who serves military families in mourning, hosting Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) families at a private practice, and hosting veterans for a workout at the team's facility with Pro Bowl Tackle ANDREW WHITWORTH and teammates in partnership with Merging Vets and Players (M.V.P.),
On game day, the team held a re-enlistment ceremony at the 50-yardline before members of the Navy Seals Leap Frog Parachute Team landed onto the Coliseum Field. The U.S. Army Color Guard Fort Irwin presented the colors as Marine Corps veteran and R&B Artist Elliot McKenzie sang the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, TAPS families along with season ticket members who are active duty military members or veterans unfurled a field-sized American Flag two EA-18G Growlers from the Navy's Electronic Attack Squadron flew over the Coliseum, which serves as a living World War I Memorial.
Subsequently, as the team captains met at midfield for the game's opening coin toss, they were accompanied by retired two-star General, Chief Pilot and American Airlines (AA) employee Robert Millmann and AA Senior Vice President for Los Angeles, Suzanne Boda. Major General Millmann served in the U.S. Air Force as the Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, 7th Air Force at the Osan Air Base in South Korea, where his mission was to organize, train and equip warfighting forces supporting the Air Component Command and perform missions that support the United Nations Command.
Underneath the Coliseum's iconic peristyle arches,100-year-old WWII veteran and Southern California native Sidney Walton lit the torch. Walton enlisted into the Army in 1941, where he served as a Corporal in the 24th Infantry, 8th Division in countries such as China, India and Burma.
During the first quarter, the Rams honored military veteran and Team Rubicon Co-Founder and CEO Jake Wood. As a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, Wood deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Scout Sniper and earned the Navy-Marine Commendation Medal. Wood was awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 26th annual ESPYS in Los Angeles on July 18, 2018.
Shortly thereafter, the Rams' adopted service dog, Cooper Pupp, was paired with a deserving disabled veteran, Brandon Shelton. Shelton served in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2014. During his service, he had one combat tour for 15 months in Balad, Iraq. He was an Assistant Watch Commander in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Leavenworth, Kansas. Cooper Pupp and Shelton will continue service dog training together with their graduation to be held next year.
"I am so grateful for this incredible opportunity that Shelter to Soldier has provided me and I know it wouldn't be possible without the support of the Los Angeles Rams," said Shelton. "Cooper Pupp is the best boy and I look forward to our graduation in the new year where I can have him in my life, helping me full time."
In the second quarter, the Rams recognized Season Ticket Member and former Flight Medic and Coast Guard Veteran Jeanne Reincke, who served as a flight medic that responded to medical emergencies at sea, provided medical aid and stabilized patients for medical evacuation to land. After serving 13 years in the military, she shifted to law enforcement where she serves as an officer and intercepts drug and human traffickers coming across the southern border into California.
"It was humbling, an honor and amazing. Everybody from the Rams organization was so nice. To be recognized and have Rampage there," said Reincke. "I can't even put it into words. It was a once and a lifetime thing. Rampage and an LAPD officer then walked me back to my seats and let me walk right up from the field to my seat. It was amazing, just to go on the field!"
During the first break in the third quarter, the Rams recognized Captain of the Los Angeles Fire Department John Marasco as an Every Day Hero. A member of the Los Angeles Fire Department for 14 years, Marasco is currently assigned to the drill tower at Fire Station 81 in the San Fernando Valley and is responsible for training and evaluating the next generation of firefighters. Before Marasco joined the LAFD, he served in the United States Navy from 2000-2005 and attained the rank of Petty Officer second class, where he oversaw deployments in the middle east during Operation Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to his role, he was responsible for aircraft and the H-46 helicopter crew's troop insertions, transports, logistics and search and rescue operations.
Additionally, in the third quarter, the musical group, The Whisper Mill, which features Marine Corps Veteran, Purple Heart Recipient and Guitarist Brad Fite, performed in the southeast endzone. In July of 2010, Fite was conducting a combat patrol in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb detonated directly beneath his vehicle causing catastrophic injuries. He became a Purple Heart recipient following his recovery and eventually began to delve back into music as a form of healing.
Since 2011, the NFL's Salute to Service efforts have raised more than $34 million for military and non-profit organizations.
For more information about the Rams military appreciation efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community.