Volunteering Rewards

U.S. service members representing all five military branches hold a large American flag during a Seattle Sounders opening ceremony practice at Centurylink field in Seattle, July 3, 2015. The Sounders solicit for military members to hold the flag for over 20 home games a year.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

U.S. service members representing all five military branches hold a large American flag during a Seattle Sounders opening ceremony practice at Centurylink field in Seattle, July 3, 2015.
The Sounders solicit for military members to hold the flag for over 20 home games a year.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

U.S. Coast Guard story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross

Throughout the year, buried within the e-mail barrage of upcoming meetings, training reminders and policy changes, are the occasional volunteer requests. Aside from the community events and parades, there are solicitations to participate in local sporting events.

But beyond the text and time schedules, what all does it really entail?

Sports teams often ask for military members to participate in game day events, which, usually involves working as a group to unfurl a gigantic flag during their opening ceremonies. The Seattle Sounders, a local profession soccer team, asks for military member participation for more than 20 home games a year.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brad Martin, a marine science technician working in port state control at Sector Puget Sound in Seattle, first took interest in the local sports scene before moving to Seattle.

U.S. service members representing all five military branches prepare a large flag to be unfurled on the field during the Seattle Sounders opening ceremony at Centurylink field in Seattle, July 3, 2015.  The Sounders solicit for around 10 service members from each branch to help hold the flag for every home game.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

U.S. service members representing all five military branches prepare a large flag to be unfurled on the field during the Seattle Sounders opening ceremony at Centurylink field in Seattle, July 3, 2015.
The Sounders solicit for around 10 service members from each branch to help hold the flag for every home game.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

“I’ve always been a big fan of soccer,” said Martin. “The fan culture here is incredible. I got sucked into it before I got here.”

After getting lured into the local fan community, he found out about game volunteer opportunities and has been participating in them ever since.

Master Chief Petty Officer Frank Donzé, an electrician’s mate with the Surface Forces Logistics Center in Seattle, has been participating since he transferred back to Seattle in 2012.

“I have never been to city that has done it as often as they do here,” he said. “I saw the solicitation to be on the flag detail and thought it was a great opportunity.”

But what makes it such a great opportunity?

Donzé and Martin enjoy the camaraderie between all the services and fellow Coast Guard personnel.

On top of the esprit de corps and positive atmosphere, volunteers get to enjoy a free game.

Depending on the event and venue, members and their guests are often invited to participate in other gameday activities and given unique stadium access.

With huge crowds and large stadiums, volunteering for your first event may seem intimidating.

Despite his nerves, Donzé remembers how awesome it was to be on the field his first time, hearing the fans screaming.

Martin was also nervous at first.

U.S. service members representing all five military branches unfurl a large American flag on the field during the National Anthem of a Seattle Sounders opening ceremony at Centurylink field in Seattle, July 3, 2015.  Participating members show up to the stadium three hours prior to the game to practice and prepare.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

U.S. service members representing all five military branches unfurl a large American flag on the field during the National Anthem of a Seattle Sounders opening ceremony at Centurylink field in Seattle, July 3, 2015.
Participating members show up to the stadium three hours prior to the game to practice and prepare.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

“You don’t know what to expect, but it’s really not that hard,” Martin said. “They spoon feed you through the entire process. It’s really just a matter of showing up, doing what they tell you, and not embarrassing yourself or the Coast Guard.”

Both members highly encourage others participate.

“Go into it with an open mind,” said Martin. “Make what you can out of the experience and enjoy.”

Next time that e-mail pops up in your inbox, it could be your ticket to new friends, lasting memories and an amazing experience.

Click here for a short video about the experence!

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