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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Surprises Family


During the first quarter of today's Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Green Bay Packers game at Raymond James Stadium, the team welcomed the nation's highest-ranking military officer, General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a special guest. General Dempsey and his wife, Mrs. Deanie Dempsey, were recognized on the field near the stadium's south end zone, where they received a standing ovation from the crowd. General Dempsey was on hand to greet a variety of Buccaneers personnel, military service members, and distinguished guests on Sunday, including: Head Coach Lovie Smith; the Buccaneers Hero of the Game: U.S. Air Force First Lieutenant Russell Gackenbach; eight service members and their families in the team's "Salute to Service Suite"; and Buccaneers Cheerleader Jeannie Gonzalez, who serves in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

General Dempsey serves as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he serves as the principal military adviser to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council. By law, he is the nation's highest-ranking military officer. Prior to becoming Chairman, the general served as the Army's 37th Chief of Staff. General Dempsey's awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with "V" Device and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. In addition to his master's degree in English, he holds master's degrees in military art and in national security studies.

During the game's first quarter break, General Dempsey also greeted Mrs. Anna Bryant – wife of Lieutenant Commander Donald Bryant – and their children Arielle (7) and Tristan (3). As part of the moment of recognition, the family watched a special video greeting from Lt. Commander Bryant on the Bucvision video boards wishing them a happy holiday as he continued his service overseas.

The Bucs helped Lt. Commander Donald Bryant, currently serving in Afghanistan, surprise children for the holidays during special moment in first quarter

Immediately following the video message, Lt. Commander Bryant appeared out of Tunnel C to surprise Arielle and Tristan, running to greet them in the end zone. The reunion was planned by Lt. Commander Bryant and his wife Anna, who had contacted the Buccaneers in hopes of coordinating a special holiday surprise for their children.

Lt. Commander Bryant has been on deployment in Afghanistan, serving as an Advisor to the Afghan Security Forces. Originally under the impression that he would serve the entire 10-month deployment consecutively, he recently was told he would have the opportunity to return home for the Christmas and New Year's holidays to spend time with family. The Bryant family lives on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

A lifelong Buccaneers fan, Lt. Commander Bryant recently surpassed 23 years of continuous active service in the U.S. Navy. Enlisted for 10 years before serving 13 years as an officer, the Lt. Commander has served on several different classes of ships in the Navy, including submarines and aircraft carriers, and has also completed both his bachelor's and master's degrees while on active duty. He has been deployed approximately 15 times, with overseas service in the majority of the deployments, including Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Pacific and Central/South American theaters. Lt. Commander Bryant is a qualified Information Dominance Warfare Officer and qualified in submarine warfare, and has received 15 medals and six service awards, including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (awarded twice), and the Joint Service Commendation Medal and Navy Commendation Medal (awarded twice).

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