On honor of Veterans Day, Tampa Bay Buccaneers players and cheerleaders visited James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa on Tuesday for the hospital's seventh annual Veterans Day Parade, Classic Car Show and Welcome Home event.
"It's a day for appreciation," said center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who was joined by long snapper Andrew DePaola, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, and safety Keith Tandy. "My brother served in one of the more recent wars, my father was in the 82nd Airborne, both my grandparents served in the Army, so it means a lot to me because I've had a lot of family members that have done their part to make sure that we're able to live in this great nation and afford the freedoms that we get."
The morning kicked off with a ceremony in front of the hospital's Fisher House, a "home away from home" for families of acutely hospitalized veterans and active-duty service members. Following the ceremony, 70 different units took part in the parade, highlighted by U.S. Army Maj. Robert Kilmartin, who was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and two Purple Heart Medals, serving as the event's grand marshal.
During the parade, the players and cheerleaders signed autographs, took photos, and greeted the large gathering of active-duty and veteran service members and their families who were enjoying a special cookout on this day of celebration and appreciation.
"I think it's great that the community comes out like this," said Jim Trapman, a Navy veteran and Clearwater native. "This is about my third year that I've been coming here, but I've been coming to this hospital since it opened in '72. I think it's great."
Bucs players and cheerleaders celebrated Veterans Day with hundreds of military members at James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital.
James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is a tertiary care facility that provides a full range of patient care services, with state-of-the-art technology as well as education and research. Every year, the Buccaneers participate in unique events with the hospital's wounded warriors and veteran patients in honor of their service and sacrifices.
To no surprise, the Buccaneers jumped at the opportunity to give back on Veterans Day.
"I have grandparents [that served], my brother just got out of the Navy, so I've got military all around my family," said Tandy. "My brother was gone overseas for five, six, seven, eight months at a time, and I know what they were fighting for – they were fighting for our freedom. So anytime I get a chance to give back to them in any way I can, I help out."