It is a great pleasure and quite humbling experience to serve as executive director of the bowl that pays tribute to our nation’s men and women in uniform. Being a Vietnam veteran, I appreciate the opportunity to offer a small token of thanks to those who stand guard, round-the-clock throughout the world, to ensure that you and I are safe and secure as we go about our daily business.
Having worked closely with the Department of Defense, it was indeed an honor to receive an invitation from Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to attend the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial Dedication last week in Washington D.C. When I arrived, I was even more taken aback to find that I was sitting in the very front row at these special festivities!
Parading by me to get to their seats were such dignitaries as Former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger; current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; and two Fort Worth natives (and past Great American Patriot Award winners) Gordon England, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army.
Not 10 feet away on stage directly in front of me were President George W. Bush; Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G. Mullen.
I was also among the first group to view the unveiling of the new monument, spread across a large courtyard, which honors each of the 184 killed during that tragic day when American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and purposely crashed into the Pentagon by terrorists on September 11, 2001. It was a moving experience walking around the large exhibit with family members of those who lost their lives — while the first responders (firemen and policemen) who rushed to the scene on that tragic day – unfurled a huge American flag off the roof of the reconstructed Pentagon area damaged in the attack.
Although football was not on the minds of anyone on that somber day, there were several individuals who came up to me and thanked the bowl for paying homage to our brave and gallant men and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
I have been fortunate to have been involved in and been witness to some incredible and exciting events in my life, but this will definitely go down as number one in my memory bank.