This evening at Smokies Park, Knox County Mayor, Tim Burchett, spoke on behalf of active military soldiers as well as veterans in the Tennessee Smokies’ Salute to Heroes Night before the start of the 7:05 game against the Mobile Bay Bears. The event, sponsored by Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union, gave active military men and women as well as veterans free tickets to the game for themselves and 3 immediate family members as a sign of gratitude for their service. Many military families were escorted through a private tour of the stadium and were able to watch the Tennessee Smokies batting practice which is normally closed off from the public.
The gates to the Stadium opened at 5:30 and the ceremony began at 6:05, running all the way to the first pitch where Jeff Jarrett, former wrestler from Total Nonstop Action Wrestling threw the ball across home plate. With the help of Efficient Energy of Tennessee, The first 1,000 fans received a deck of veteran cards. Each card has an American Flag background behind a photo of a military veteran and a biography of the man or woman on the back. The first 500 received the deck and a miniature American Flag provided by Woodmen of the World to wave during the ceremony and game. Vintage military vehicles sat outside the gates as fans rushed through to receive their memorabilia.
The ceremony honored Gold Star families who had lost a loved one in active duty. A Tennessee Smokies Player presented a white rose to each Gold Star family and hugged them in sympathy for their loss. Blue Star families were recognized too; these were members that have a loved one in duty currently for a specific branch. To close the emotional Salute to Heroes ceremony, a trumpeter played the National Anthem while veterans participated in a 3-volley salute to honor lost soldiers. The Tennessee Smokies have been honoring the ones who have served or are currently serving our country with the Salute to Heroes ceremony for eight years now, and as long as there are those who still fight for our beloved country, this will not be there last.