USC Athletics and the LAFD Honor Wounded Veterans
Sept. 9, 2013
Midway through the second quarter of Saturday's 2013 home opener for the Trojans, a band of 29 wounded veterans marched onto the field during a pause in the action. The men, guests at USC's first annual Wounded Warrior Weekend, received custom medals from members of the Los Angeles Fire Department, as the crowd of over 90,000 roared in appreciation. The moment, a centerpiece of USC's Joint Forces Day, offered a brief pause in a weekend packed with events for these special men.
Planning for that moment began almost a year early, when Battalion Chief Tom Ottman of the LAFD attended a football game in South Bend, Indiana. "Notre Dame honored a group of Wounded Warriors during the game, and I thought, if the Irish can do it, USC might want to take it one step further," said Ottman. The idea for a full weekend of programming was born, and a year later, it proved to be an enormous success.
In conjunction with the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that provides events and services to severely injured veterans, the LAFD hosted 29 soldiers, with each man stationed at a different fire house throughout the city.
The weekend kicked off on Friday night in the Galen Center, where a banquet honored the men and their host houses. Speeches from Fire Chief Brian Cummings and USC Senior Associate Athletic Director J.K. McKay highlighted the unique bond between the armed forces, the fire department, and collegiate athletics. The program paid tribute to fallen heroes and their years of service.
On game day, the guests were escorted to campus aboard fire engines and attended a full tailgate barbeque at the front of the coliseum. Uniformed soldiers, athletic department staff, and firemen mingled amidst the tables of brisket and cold drinks. At the game, USC donated prime seating for the wounded veterans, and offered a half price deal for all members of the Joint Forces.
The weekend concluded on Sunday with breakfast and a boat ride in Long Beach at Fire Station 112. The warriors were returned to their homes equipped with a USC hat, a commemorative t-shirt, a personalized medal, and a bit of Trojan pride.
"I appreciate all that USC Athletics did to brighten up the lives of members of our Nation's Armed Forces," said Ottman. "I have the impression that this relationship will be continuing in the future."