Lynx Honor Armed Forces On Military Night

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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Lindsay Whalen admitted it was tough to fully stay focused during timeouts on Sunday at Target Center. With the Lynx organization recognizing members of our Armed Forces during the team’s second annual Military Night, on-court presentations and announcements over the loudspeaker piqued her interest throughout the evening.

She, like the rest of the 9,032 on hand, wanted to pay tribute.

“When you think of the sacrifice our men and women are giving to us, it’s really humbling and you are just very thankful of everything they do,” Whalen said. “You want to pay attention, but you also want to clap. They were bringing out so many people that were serving before or are currently serving. I caught myself a couple times, but that’s what it’s all about. You want to show respect.”

The Lynx organization built Sunday’s game, a 90-72 win over the Seattle Storm, around honoring those who are currently serving or are veterans of the Armed Forces. Pregame, those who are or have served were asked to stand when their branch of the military was called and received recognition from the rest of the fans on hand.

Leading up to the game, the Lynx accepted ticket donations that could be reallocated for military personnel and their families to take in the game. The initiative was run in conjunction with the Minnesota National Guard, which distributed the tickets to military families.

During the second quarter, the Lynx recognized Capt. Tara Robertson as the recipient of their August Inspiring Women award. Robertson has spent eight years in the military through the Minnesota National Guard, and she’s been deployed to Afghanistan where she’s received a Combat Action Badge.

At the end of halftime, the Lynx honored Air Force veteran Lowell Neilsen, who enlisted in 1954 and spent two decades in the Armed Forces—including being deployed to Vietnam in 1971.

Neilsen, who was active in the military during a time when protest often spoiled soldiers’ returns home, said he proudly stood at center court and humbly felt as though he was receiving recognition for the rest of the veterans of his era who didn’t always get that type of reception.

Maj. Kris Augé, the Minnesota National Guard’s deputy director of public affairs, said in the case of Vietnam veterans who didn’t get that type of response when they returned home 40 years ago it can be a healing process to show them that recognition today. For current military personnel who have felt continuous public support in the post 9/11 era, soldiers are still incredibly appreciative of events like Military Night.

On Sunday, generations of those who protected and served our country came together at Target Center.

“I’m absolutely proud—one of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to join the Air Force, and the other great decision was to stay in for the 20 years,” he said. “It was just fantastic.”

Military Night is a special evening for everyone in the Lynx organization as it provides a way for the team as a whole to say thank you to the troops for all the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

And on his particular roster, the Lynx have several players and coaches who come from military backgrounds. Coach Cheryl Reeve’s father, Larry, was a longtime member of the Air Force. Rebekkah Brunson’s grandfather served in World War II, and her father and two brothers have also served in the military. Monica Wright’s parents met one another in the Air Force.

There is no shortage of respect on the roster when it comes to paying tribute to the troops. That’s why on Military Night there is a balance between staying focused on the game and paying attention to the in-arena presentations.

“It’s great to see the people who protect and serve our country every day,” Seimone Augustus said. “If we can put a smile on their faces for 2 ½ hours, it means a lot to them and it means a lot to us to share those special moments. When the PA guy gets on and tells everybody who’s in the military or serving to get up and everyone gets a chance to acknowledge that, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Reeve said she could tell the players enjoyed being able to participate in the evening, and they pay particular attention to what’s going on. No question the veterans who were recognized either on the court or in the stands appreciated all the thought that went into the evening.

“It’s fantastic any time an organization of professionals like that are willing to stand up and support the military,” Robertson said. “That says a lot, and it gets a lot of publicity, which is a good thing. There are those of us who continue to serve every day, but there are veterans and it makes sure they’re not forgotten. It’s a really good feeling when they have people stand up and represent their respective branches, that’s pretty cool. I know being a veteran, people appreciate that a lot.”

Neilsen said as a veteran, feeling that type of support from U.S. citizens makes everything worthwhile. On Sunday at Target Center, everyone from the players to the fans were part of that Thank You message.

“We’re grateful for everything they do,” Brunson said. “Whether it’s here or abroad, we appreciate it.”

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