The Hartford Athletic and Connecticut's Veterans Affairs hosted the Inaugural Military and Veterans Appreciation Night Saturday night.
The team honored soldiers lost in battle, their loved ones and the men and women who are serving.
Memorial Day weekend has a deeper meaning for Bob Keiser and his wife Helen Keiser Pedersen. Both are a part of Connecticut's Gold-Star Families, an unfortunate shared bond for those who lost a loved one while serving our country.
"Our title should be as common a solider or as a veteran," said Helen Keiser-Pedersen, President of Connecticut Gold-Star Families. "I want America and the state to know and gain the knowledge about the families who lose our loved ones who serve this country."
The couple's son, U.S. Army Captain Andrew Michael Pedersen-Keel, died while on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2013.
"He was a great kid, worked hard and loved what he was doing for our country," said Bob Keiser.
The celebration during the game poured into halftime when the women's veterans were recognized. Juliet Taylor was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army from 2000 until 2014 and believes this experience is eye-opening for a lot of people.
"A lot of times when people hear about veterans, they think about males, and a lot of times when you hear about spouses, many people think about women that are spouses, so now a lot of us [women] are on the battlefield, I serve on the battlefield," said Taylor.
While Saturday was Hartford Athletic's first time hosting the military and veterans appreciation night, the hope is to keep up the momentum for years to come.
"We pride ourselves on having an event like this," said Thomas Saadi, commissioner for the CT Department of Veterans Affairs. "It's important to have this event along with events around the state in remembrance and recognition so that we don’t forget what it’s all about.”
During the opening ceremony, Helen Keiser-Pedersen presented the official match ball in honor of all Connecticut Goldstar families. The presentation of the colors and singing of the National Anthem by soldiers of the Connecticut National Guard followed.
The half-time ceremony recognized Connecticut Women Veterans for their service to the nation and their continued advocacy for veterans, service members and their families.
The women veterans honored at the military and veterans appreciation night included:
- Juliet Taylor
- Madelon Baranowski
- Mary Nanette Harris of Naugatuck
- Tabita Potok
- Jennifer Rector
A portion of the proceeds from Saturday's game will be donated to the C.T. Department of Veterans.