As a huge flag unfurled and a jet thundered overhead, dozens of veterans joined in singing the National Anthem on Sunday as part of a Raytheon-sponsored salute to servicemembers during a New England Patriots-Buffalo Bills game.
The game was part of a day of activities for veterans and their supporters. They rubbed shoulders with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former astronaut Robert Curbeam, toured a Patriots museum sponsored by Raytheon, assembled care packages for service members and enjoyed prime seats at the game.
Some of the veterans helped unfurl a giant American flag on the field just before kickoff. A military jet thundered over the stadium.
“It makes me proud,” said Mike Donovan, 36, a former U.S. Army specialist from Kensington, Conn. “I have friends still over in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it makes me proud that people are acknowledging that.”
Donovan was one of 25 followers of Raytheon’s Twitter account who documented the day’s events as part of a behind-the-scenes “tweetup.”
The day began with a brunch for about 200 veterans and their relatives at The Hall at Patriot Place, an exhibit center sponsored by Raytheon.
Kraft thanked the veterans for their service and praised Raytheon for equipping and training warfighters.
“There isn’t a better company anywhere in the western world than Raytheon that does more for protecting our way of life,” Kraft told the group.
He joked that he hoped to see his team throw many “Patriot missiles” on the field during the game. Raytheon makes the Patriot air defense missile battery.
During the reception Raytheon announced a $50,000 grant to the Student Veterans of America, which helps former service members readjust to civilian life while attending college.
“The visibile and invisible wounds of war are always challenging for these students,” said Matthew Feger, director of development for the association. “We’re extremely grateful for the support and looking forward to a long partnership with Raytheon.”
Tweetup attendees met with Curbeam, a veteran and former astronaut who now works for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business.
For veteran Bill Cortese, 26, of Newark, N.J., the day’s events brought back good memories.
Cortese was based in Chicopee, Mass. while serving in the Marines. In 2007 he and other Marines went to a Patriots game shortly after returning from a long tour of duty in the Horn of Africa.
“That was our homecoming," Cortese said. "So it’s really cool to be back here again on Veterans Day.”