University recognizes veterans before football game

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Katie Nemecek spent four years serving in the Marine Corps before coming to the University, and Tuesday night, she went out on the football field to show students why she served.

“We’re not just doing this for our country, we’re doing it for our family, for our freedom and for unity,” said Nemecek, a 26-year-old freshman. “I just want [students] to know we’re here for each other.”

Nemecek wasn’t the only veteran on the field; more than 20 veterans from the University and the community came out to be honored during the game against Ohio University.

The University has welcomed veterans out onto the football field to be honored at the game nearest Veterans Day for several years.

“It’s a great way to show our support of the sacrifice veterans have made,” said Barbara Henry, assistant vice president of Nontraditional and Transfer Student Services. “Football is just so all-American, it’s just one of many ways we can reach out.”

It’s a special moment for veterans standing on the field, she said.

“It’s very moving, it’s very emotional,” Henry said.

Nemecek was also honored individually at Tuesday night’s game.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for what I’ve done,” she said. “It’s refreshing.”

Nemecek was a basic water support technician and was surprised the University chose to honor her.

“It’s nice that they’re doing this,” Nemecek said about the tent and game. “I think it’s nice because you don’t realize how many people have actually served our country until you get them on the field. It’s comforting, it’s one big family.”

In addition to welcoming veterans onto the field, this was also the fourth year there was a tailgating tent for veterans.

“It’s a great way to honor them and bring awareness to the community,” said Eric Buetikofer, transfer adviser and recruiter in NTSS. “Having the veteran appreciation pregame tent and honoring them on field is a great way for the community to see there are veterans.”

Richard Alestock served in the Army for 11 years and recently moved to Bowling Green. He came to the tent to be with other veterans and tell them about an organization he’s with, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

He said he thinks it’s great that veterans get to go out on the field.

“We’re not just representing ourselves, we’re representing other veterans who have served. There are some of us who didn’t make it back,” Alestock said. “I think veterans want to know what they’ve done is worthwhile, that people honor what they’ve done, the sacrifice they’ve made and the sacrifice they’ve seen their brothers and sisters make.”

The event is the biggest event for veterans all year because it is always close to Veterans Day, Buetikofer said. There are also a couple other smaller events during the year that are targeted to smaller populations, he said.

The tent is a partnership between athletics and NTSS, according to an email from Craig Sandlin, coordinator of promotion and fan experience in Athletics.

“Our veterans have made big sacrifices; they have put their lives on the line for our freedom, take time from their family and serve our country proudly,” he said. “Giving our veterans free tickets and hosting this tent is just one way we show our appreciation to those that fight to defend our freedoms.”

Henry said she thinks the tent and game have become a tradition and a way for veterans to get to know and support each other.

“It’s been a very successful event in the past and I think the key ingredient is that it’s for both student veterans and faculty and staff veterans to acknowledge their service and also bring in the community,” she said.

For more pictures, check out the photo slideshow below: