Outback Bowl showcases Marines
By Cpl. John F. Silwanus
| | January 04, 2006
TAMPA, Fla. --
More than 60,000 extremely passionate fans rocked the stands of Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, while millions of television veiewers sat glued to the screen and witnessed a gridiron showdown at the 2006 Outback Bowl that showcased two prolific college football teams.
The 2006 Outback Bowl, Jan. 2, in Tampa was an opportunity for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command to showcase Marines in a national spotlight.
Marines capitalized on that opportunity throughout the game and festivities leading up to the final whistle. The Marines started with the Outback Bowl parade, Dec. 31, as the faithful fans of the University of Iowa and the University of Florida lined the streets of Tampa's Historic District, Ybor City.
"The parade before the game was a surreal experience," said Capt. Christine K. Rabaja, quality control officer, Eastern Recruiting Region and officer-in-charge of the Recruit Liaison Section. "The atmosphere was so festive; it was such an exciting experience to be a part of the weekend."
Rabaja, a University of Iowa graduate, was just one of several Marines to be involved in the weekends festivities. Five Marines from around the Marine Corps traveled to Tampa for the game and were recognized for their contributions to the War on Terrorism.
The Marines were recognized not only because of their contributions, but also as hometown heroes from the Iowa and Florida areas. The Marines walked the parade route beside the Marine Corps’ Enhanced Marketing Vehicle and tossed Marine Corps footballs to the adoring crowd.
“There were so many people who would walk up to me and thank me for serving,” said Sgt. Adam Fernandez, canvassing recruiter, Permanent contact Station Clearwater, Fla., and graduate of Tampa’s H.B. Plant high School. “It was a good homecoming for me.”
The Marines and the Humvee were not the only Marine presence over the weekend. Following the hometown heroes was the Parris Island Marine Band and the Marines Racing team Showcar. The band reeled off several tunes including the Marines Hymn and, a crowd favorite, “Sing Sing Sing.”
“The parade was great; it was like a min-Mardi Gras,” said Sgt. Jared M. Herr, platoon sergeant ad trumpeter in the Parris Island Marine Band. “The crowd was energized and shouting for us to play. It was such a motivating experience for me.”
After the excitement of the parade subsided, the Marines had to prepared themselves for the game. Before, kickoff, Marine Corps Harriers from Marine Attack Squadron-231 flew overhead preceding the National Anthem. Then a color guard from the Inspector/ Instructor staff of the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion proudly flew the National Ensign and the Marine Corps colors. Brig. Gen. Richard t. Tryon, commanding general, Eastern Recruiting Region, continued the Marine presence as he flipped the opening coin.
The Marines were not only featured during the telecast, but visitors to “RayJay” were able to spot the Humvee and Showcar in the south end zone plaza
The Marines were sure to bring some motivation and two pull-up bars to help generate a lot of awareness and a few leads.
“During the game, I focused mostly on getting contacts,” said Fernandez. “I was able to talk to a lot of folks and get my name out in the community.”
The Marines camped out in the south end zone were visible to the stadium audience, however, the viewers at home also caught a glimpse of the Marine presence on the sidelines.
“I was able to go down to the sideline and watch the game with several other Marines,” said Herr, an avid Florida Gator fan “In fact, one of the players gave me a towel. He said that he wanted to thank us for what we do every day.”
The marines were everywhere this day and all considered it an experience they will never forget.
“It was amazing to look up at the stands, the same ones I had watched games from as a kid, and see 60,000 people on their feet cheering for me,” said Fernandez. “It was an indescribably outstanding experience for me.”