Marines Attend NFL Draft
By Sgt. Chad Simon
| | April 29, 2004
NEW YORK --
The National Football League Draft was held April 24, at Madison Square Garden, N.Y. and Marines and Soldiers from the surrounding areas were invited by the New York Metropolitan United Service Organization (USO) and the NFL to attend as honorary guests.
Several Marines were on National television with the Commissioner of the NFL, Paul Tagliabue, for a moment of silence to pay respect to former NFL player, Army Spc. Pat Tillman. Tillman, an Army Ranger, was a former starting safety for the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted in the Army following the September 11 attacks on the United States. He was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment the day before the draft.
“It was very moving to be up on the stage. Pat Tillman gave up millions of dollars to do what he thought was right,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jody Wiemholt, recruiter, Recruiting Substation Manhattan, N.Y., and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran. “I wish there were more people like him.”
In addition to being on stage, the Marines were given access very few people get at the draft. They were allowed to eat in the VIP room, attend media interviews and given front row seats.
As the Marines entered Madison Square Garden they were amazed at the praise they received from the fans waiting outside.
“The fans gave us a standing ovation on our way in. It felt good to know that people still support us,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Goodwater, recruiter, Recruiting Substation Lindenhurst, N.Y.
Wiemholt added, “It made me extremely proud to be a part of the [military]. The ovation made the hair on the back of my neck raise up. It was great to see that even if they do not agree with the politics, these people understand what the military is about.”
Before the draft began, the Marines had the opportunity to speak with Tagliabue backstage for a short period of time about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also met former NFL star Michael Irvin.
“Irvin asked us where we were all from and expressed his gratitude to us,” said Wiemholt “It was a motivating experience to be there.”