April 2, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For the Florida State softball team, Monday’s Military Appreciation Game will mean more than the special-edition Nike jerseys the Seminoles will wear against rival North Carolina.
The new, military-themed duds will honor America and those that protect its freedom in stylish fashion, of course, but the sentiments, reflections and true meaning of the game will extend much further and much deeper than a uniform.
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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For Amber Bryant, Tiffani Brown, Kirstin Austin and Kelly Hensley, in particular, Monday’s 7 p.m. game against the Tar Heels is personal — all four student-athletes have an immediate family member that serves or has served in some branch of the American military system.
Hensley’s father, Daniel, retired from the United States Air Force after 21 years of service and now teaches Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Niceville High School. Her sister, Amanda, is currently stationed in San Antonio, Texas as a member of the Army and has already served a tour of duty in Iraq.
“I love that we are honoring veterans,” Hensley said. “I think it’s important to honor the people that don’t always get as much appreciation as they certainly deserve. They do a lot for us and sometimes I think we don’t realize how much those in the military do for us everyday.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice and I love that we use a little bit of our time to show how important they are to us.”
Bryant’s father, Robert, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1980 to 1986. Not only did he serve his country but he also met Amber’s mother, Renee, while she was serving in the same capacity with the Marines from 1983 to 1986.
Brown’s father, Terry, is also a retired Army veteran and was stationed with the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky. Terry Brown served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm but had the fortune of returning home from the latter 30 minutes before Tiffani was born in April of 1991.
“I think it will be an extra special moment on Monday for him to reflect on what he has done in his life,” Brown said.
As for Austin, the Florida State outfielder comes from a long line of freedom protectors.
Austin’s father, William, joined the Naval ROTC while studying at Vanderbilt and went into the military right out of college. He later advanced to the rank of Commander in the U.S. Navy and now serves in the Naval reserves.
Both of Austin’s grandfathers were part of the Army Air Core before it ever became the Air Force, as well.
“My brother and I will actually be the first generation in our family that hasn’t been in the military,” Austin said. “There will definitely [be a reflective moment]. Every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about him. Growing up and going to ballgames I would see how focused he would be during the anthem and I have emulated that in my life because I understand its significance and importance.”
Monday’s game will air live nationally on ESPNU and is free to attend. The first 200 fans that enter the ballpark also get a free ticket to the Florida State baseball team’s game against Miami April 21.