Wrestling legend and onetime drill instructor Sgt. Slaughter posed with Clearwater Threshers players during the Clearwater Threshers’ Military and Veterans Appreciation Night on June 3.
CLEARWATER – The Clearwater Threshers host several special theme nights throughout their summer-long season, from wing tasting events to the immensely popular Star Wars Night. But none of the food and fun themes can compare to the team’s annual Veterans and Military Appreciation Night.
The Threshers held the latest installment on Saturday, June 3, and it featured an array of patriotic tributes and attractions, including a trio of softball games featuring service veterans, a swearing-in ceremony for roughly 70 new military recruits, three para-commandos parachuting into Spectrum Field and an appearance by longtime wrestling legend and onetime drill instructor, Sgt. Slaughter.
“The Clearwater Threshers were honored to once again host such an incredible event,” Threshers corporate sales associate Cory Sipe, who organized the event, said via email. “It is truly our pleasure to bring recognition to and honor those men and women who risk their lives, and many giving their lives, to defend the freedoms that we are fortunate to enjoy today. This event is just a small token of our appreciation to those men and women and their families.”
In addition to the on-field activities, fans were greeted by a caravan of military vehicles that were set up outside the stadium, and 1,000 ticket holders were handed a Hometown Hero baseball card set upon entering the field.
“The Hometown Hero card set presented by (veterans disability law firm) Bosley & Bratch honored 14 men & women who have served our country,” Sipe said. “They or their family members were honored and recognized on the field prior to the game. We are extremely grateful for the support we receive from Bosley & Bratch to be able to host such an event.”
While there was no denying the excitement generated by the SOCOM parachutists as they landed in the outfield pregame, or the sight of Sgt. Slaughter posing for pictures with everyone from Threshers players to Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter, perhaps the most moving part of the evening came from the swearing-in ceremony of dozens of future American heroes; the importance of the moment was not lost on one local parent of a fallen soldier.
“I recently came back from a trip to the White House as part of a tour with the Gold Star Mothers and Families of Florida,” said Toni Gross of Oldsmar, whose son, Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, was killed in action in Afghanistan in July 2011. “But I would trade a trip to Washington, D.C. to see these kids who are committing their lives for their country. There is no greater expression of patriotism than that, and I appreciate and applaud every single one of them for making the ultimate commitment to their country.”