June 2, 2011
By Maj. Travis Dettmer, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, June 1, 2011 — Members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, took part in a special event in the early morning hours of May 31, 2011, to help the New York Mets ring in their 4th Annual Military Appreciation Day Memorial Day event at Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y.
Col. Chris Toner and Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Pumarejo, along with several 3/1 Soldiers who hail from the New York City area, gathered together to help throw the first pitch live via satellite from Afghanistan during pre-game ceremonies, before the Mets took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a Memorial Day evening game.
During the live appearance, Duke Soldiers were able to talk to the crowd, and some even spoke with family members on the field and in the stands.
“I was surprised that we could talk to them and they could talk back,” said Staff Sgt. Darcella Marshall, life-long Mets fan and native of Brooklyn, N.Y. Marshall, who is the contracting noncommissioned officer for Task Force Duke, was able to talk to her mother, father, grandfather, and uncle, all who were on the field watching her on the big screen.
“I was excited,” said Marshall, “it was really nice for [The Mets] to do that. I’m very appreciative.”
Just before game time the Mets announcers prompted Toner to deliver the game ball.
“Sergeant Major, will you do the honors,” Toner said, handing the ball to Pumarejo, who wound up and pitched it straight over a virtual home plate.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who most recently served as commander of Regional Command Southwest in Afghanistan, completed the pitch from the mound in the stadium to a roaring crowd.
In addition to the Dukes appearance, the event featured the U.S. Marine Corps Band performing the Star Spangled Banner, an on-field multi-service enlistment ceremony, and a flyover by two U.S. Navy F-18E Super Hornets, among other military pageantry.
Speaking about the Dukes participation, game attendee Maria Goldsmith said she appreciated the Soldiers service and the fact the Dukes could participate from Afghanistan.
Steve Castleton organized the event and was responsible for getting the Dukes involved.
“This was the largest, most multi-faceted military appreciation event ever for Major League Baseball,” said Castleton, who has two sons and a daughter-in-law currently serving in the Army.
Castleton was very grateful for 3/1’s willing participation.
“The Dukes all looked like the heroes they are,” he said.