Raytheon Quarterbacks Veterans 'Salute to Service' at Patriots-Broncos Game
As biting winds whipped through Gillette Stadium, warmth, inspiration and gratitude filled Raytheon’s annual “Salute to Service” event.
New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft welcomed the crowd as they prepared to watch Peyton Manning face Tom Brady in the primetime showdown.
"I'm so happy that you're here for this game tonight because of the special spirit and karma that you bring here to our great stadium," Kraft told the crowd. "I think there are three groups of people that are underappreciated in our society, and they're police and firemen, nurses, and people who serve in the armed services. We don't give them the proper recognition and respect as a country…We thank you for all you do for our country."
During the pre-game reception, veterans and their supporters met New England Patriots legend and Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti, who reflected on their patriotism in service to the nation.
“They all are so positive,” he said of the veterans. “The ability to live and overcome is something I just have to sit back and admire. They are truly inspirational.”
Veterans braved single-digit temperatures to be honored on field before kickoff.
“It’s an overwhelming experience,” said Patrick Cornell, a 27-year-old staff sergeant in the Massachusetts National Guard. “Being able to go out and see a stadium flooded with people who are supportive of veterans is extremely heartwarming.”
Now a business management major and member of Salem State University's Student Veterans Organization, Cornell first joined the U.S. Army in 2004 and served three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan before retiring from active duty in 2011. He always knew that he was going to join the armed services because his two older brothers had and inspired him to do the same.
"It's what my family does," Cornell said. "This is my childhood dream, and I lived that dream out."
Attending the event for a second year, Rob Chester, 27, said nothing is better than trying on one of the Patriots' Super Bowl rings, which are on display at The Hall, and enjoying the company of other veterans.
"One thing I learned in the military is to appreciate the small things in life," said the graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology who is pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology. "Being from Ohio, I'm actually a Cleveland Browns fan, but I always look forward to a good game."
Throughout November, Raytheon has encouraged sharing messages of gratitude, appreciation and support for veterans via social media through the hashtag #HT4H (Hashtags4Heroes).
Attending the reception on behalf of Wounded Warrior Project, Steven Bohn, 26, of Salem, Mass., was injured in Afghanistan in 2008; the organization has helped him more than he could ever imagine.
"They saved my life," Bohn said. "I wouldn't be here without them."
As the nation prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, the veterans are thankful for their military experiences and how those opportunities have positively changed their lives.
"It taught me the importance of life," said veteran attendee Greg Card, 33, of Concord N.H. "It's the value of every single day. Enjoy it and live it to the best you possibly can."
Last Updated: 02/26/2015