Connect with Ashley Claster on Facebook and Twitter
Even though Texas Tech lost the football game Saturday, there was a much bigger purpose to the game than just football. It was to honor the veterans who sacrificed everything for this country.
"I handled three grenades that day. One of them came in and hit me in the helmet, and fell down beside me," Medal of Honor recipient Doc Ballard said.
Ballard thinks back to the day that he earned the Medal of Honor. It is the highest military honor that America gives to soldiers of any branch.
"I rolled over, and I flung the grenade outside the bomb crater, and it went off after I threw it away," Ballard said.
He is one of the hundreds of proud veterans that descended on Lubbock for the Lone Survivor game Saturday.
Director of Military and Veteran Programs at Texas Tech Ryan Van Dusan said, "I've never seen a place that embraces the military like West Texas. It just really means a lot,"
Doctor Juan Munoz is the Senior President of Military and Veteran Affairs at Texas Tech. He said, "I'm a home town boy. This is a great place, always has been. But in particular, they've always welcomed the veterans and military personnel with open arms and friendliness."
Jesse Jalomo is the director of Upward Bound. He said, "Texas Tech is a remarkable place. And we say that from here it's possible... But because of the service and sacrifice of veterans, it truly is possible."
The veterans who sacrificed everything for their country, and your freedom.
"I think that's something everybody ought to be involved in," Vietnam veteran Bob Wooley said. "Our young kids need to know that they're out there sacrificing so they can do what they do over here, and be free to do it."
Tony Seahorn has received two Purple Hearts. He said, "If we send them, then we must mend them. So many come back with scars, physical and emotional. And it's very very important as Americans, and as Patriots, that we take care of our veterans. And that we do everything that we can to welcome them home, and give them whatever kind of support that they need."
Seahorn was shot twice in the arm, and once in the chest. Although writing a book with his wife helped him heal, he said being honored and appreciated helps him heal best. Just like double-amputee Dana Bowman, who parachuted into the stadium with other vets.
"What a way to send off our guys and gals that serve our great country," Bowman said. "You're definitely given back here, and we love you for it, too. Hooah!"
"To see all of these men in one place. All the way from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, up to the current crisis we have in Afghanistan. To see all of these men here in one place is just overwhelming. It meant a lot to me," Wooley said.
This is the largest gathering of Purple Heart recipients ever on American soil.
"The purple heart significantly points out that these men, and women, have risked their lives. For what? For us to have our freedoms," Ballard said.
Even the team did something to honor their heroes. The players wore special uniforms just for the occasion.
"To honor everybody, we're going to put on special jerseys for them," Assistant Coach Trey Haverty said. "I know Coach Kingsbury and the staff are big into that. Because, at the end of the day, we're playing a football game. And there's people out there who are sacrificing a lot more for us to be able to play this great game. So at the same time, you have to put things into perspective. That's kind of a message to our kids. To let them know that it is a game that we all want to win. But, there's bigger games in life that some people are doing that don't get talked about as much."
To set the tone, the veterans brought military vehicles to place around the stadium. Like this humvee, or this Huey.
Every veteran FOX 34 spoke with said it is an incredible feeling to be honored, but even better to be back with their comrades.
"I'm back home. I'm back in my element," Army veteran Chuck Howe said. "And this is the greatest thing I could do, is to be associated with fellow veterans."
And even if they have never met, they understand each other. They are brothers.
"It's a love. It's hard to describe. But it's there. It's the greatest love I've ever experienced," Ballard said.
That is not something the team is taking lightly.
"It's extra incentive for the players to go out there and bust their tail a little bit more. If it's not, which you hopefully wouldn't have a reason not to. But to know that the biggest gathering of Purple Heart recipients are out there watching you, and their getting honored in this game. That's a special deal," Haverty said. "Because it's never happened any other place, and it's happening in Lubbock, Texas."
"Remember, at the end of the day, we all bleed the same way," Bowman said.
Red Raiders working hard on field, for the heroes who work so hard for our freedom.