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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Signing Up Again

John Lynch and Jon Gruden help bring attention to local servicemen who have chosen to re-enlist in the military


Safety John Lynch and Head Coach Jon Gruden wanted visiting servicemen to know that they appreciate the jobs they perform

When a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signs a new contract, it's hot news for everyone from television reporters to radio hosts to web site writers. When one of America's servicemen re-enlists in the military, on the other hand, it's rarely headline material.

That doesn't mean nobody cares, however. Bucs Pro Bowl safety John Lynch, for one, thinks its pretty big news, as does Head Coach Jon Gruden. On Friday, April 26th, Lynch and Gruden wanted to turn re-enlistment into a special experience for five U.S. military men.

That's why Sergeant JaBari Swinton (Army), Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hutra (Navy), Airman 1st Class John Szenderski (Air Force), Petty Officer Brendon Fonock (Coast Guard) and Staff Sergeant Sal Sanchez (Marine Corps) were invited to One Buccaneer Place to re-enlist in their respective branches of the military.

"The enlisted re-enlist every few years depending on their branch of service and their specialty," said Colonel Mike Coman. "It varies from everywhere from two to six years. The re-enlistment oath is a very important one, as it pledges them to the service of their country."

Prior to reciting their re-enlistment oaths, the five servicemen were introduced to Gruden and Lynch. As the introductions were made, Colonel Coman described his feelings for the troops to the two Buccaneers. "We like to refer to them as quiet heroes," said Coman. "They may not get the TV time, but they are out there slugging it in the trenches everyday."

With everyone standing at attention and the flag waving in the breeze, Colonel Coman spoke the enlistment oath as the five servicemen repeated his words.

The oath: "I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Following the touching ceremony, all of the servicemen had their photo taken in front of the American flag with Gruden and Lynch.

"I felt very patriotic," said Gruden. "This was very exciting. I don't know a lot of military people personally, but I certainly respect what they do. This was a good learning experience for me and I really admire what these guys do."

Lynch also touched on his respect for the military and the honor of being included in such an important moment in the lives of the servicemen.

"At first, I really didn't understand what it (re-enlistment) was all about," said Lynch. "Now, I know it's just a tremendous honor. I have such a great deal of respect and admiration for what they do and why they do it. These guys don't have to re-enlist, but they are re-enlisting because they love our country and they love what they do. These are our heroes."

The re-enlistees were just as excited as Gruden and Lynch.

"The Buccaneers are my favorite football team," said Hutra. "I couldn't think of any better way to do my final re-enlistment into the Navy."

Added Fonock: "It was a pretty cool deal. It's something good to sleep on tonight."

"It was a great opportunity," said Swinton. "I wish he had gone ahead and signed me on, but it was great."

And Sanchez: "It was a great honor. I'm a big fan of the Buccaneers, so meeting them (Gruden and Lynch) was a once in a lifetime event for me."

Szenderski summed up the enlistees' feelings. "I thought it was excellent," he said. "It was a great chance to meet those guys up close and personal. They're just like me and you, they put their pants on every day just like we do. They're great guys. This was a great opportunity for us."

With – for once – the TV cameras filming, the writers scribbling and the photographers snapping, Chief Master Sergeant Lew Monroe made it clear why our servicemen and women re-enlist, regardless of the usual lack of attention.

"They do it because they love this country," said Monroe. "When they raise their right hand and swear to defend the Constitution, that means they are willing to give their lives to preserve your way of life."

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