JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Armada FC is taking a tour of military bases around Northeast Florida this week ahead of Military Appreciation Night at 7:30 p.m. ET this Saturday at Community First Park, presented by Key Auto.
"Our great nation would not be what it is without the bravery of our military personnel," said Armada FC President Steve Livingstone. "We look forward to putting on an event that shows how much our club truly appreciates their hard work in defending our country."
Tuesday night, the Armada is held a team practice on the base of Naval Air Station Jacksonville for the military personnel and families on the base.
"Sports unites communities," said NAS Jax Commanding Officer Captain Howard Wanamaker. "This is so important to have them here and to practice on our field, it's unbelievable."
The importance was not lost on Armada FC defender Matt Bahner, "The military is a huge part of the history of Jacksonville. So, to be part of a team that is named after that is very special and we hold it near and dear to our heart."
Armada FC players Derek Gebhard and Joseph Toby paid a visit to the United States Coast Guard Southeast base in Mayport on Monday morning to get an up close look at some of the high-profile ships that guard the nation's coasts as well as take time to thank each seaman for their service.
"I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit the Coast Guard base today," Gebhard said. "My dad is serves in the Navy, so I have a lot of appreciation and respect for all they do to keep our country safe."
Toby also said how impressed he was with being able to get an up close look behind the scenes of a military base.
"It is amazing to see everything that goes into it," Toby said. "I already had so much respect and appreciation for the military, but having the opportunity to get an up close look at how hard they work just makes me appreciate their service even more."
At Community First Park on Saturday night when the Armada take on the San Antonio Scorpions, the club will be honoring all five branches of the armed forces throughout the night, and members of the military will raise the Armada flag and join captains at midfield for the ceremonial coin toss prior to kickoff. In addition, 30 members of the Fleming Island NJROTC will hold a large U.S. flag at midfield for the national anthem.
At the end of the national anthem, fans will be able to look up to the sky and see a thrilling flyover from squadron HSM-48 VIPERS.
To commemorate the night, the Armada FC is offering a special, value-added package starting at $25 that includes one ticket to the match and another ticket that will be donated to the USO. Fans who purchase the package will also receive a military-themed t-shirt featuring the name of an Armada player.
In addition, the first 7,000 fans to enter Community First Park will receive Cannon Sticks presented by Key Auto.