By Walt Johnson
DENVER — An appreciative Denver Broncos organization, in conjunction with the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) and Broncos fans greeted members of the Mountain Post with cheers during the annual November Denver Broncos Salute to Service game Nov. 4, 2018, at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver.
Fort Carson Soldiers joined members from each of the nation’s military branches stationed in Colorado as well as first responders in the Denver area. Soldiers were treated to a brunch meal, which also provided tickets and a pregame tailgate for the military members and first responders.
It was an early start for the Mountain Post Soldiers as they left the post at 9 a.m. to prepare for the event. Pregame practices began at the stadium shortly after 11 a.m. Military and civilian members of the Mountain Post Family took part in the pregame festivities and prepared for their role for the day.
After the practice activities, the service members convened for a brunch inside the stadium where they received a commemorative medallion and designated representatives from each organization received game balls that were to be taken back to their installations to be displayed. Former Bronco players Ebenezer Ekuban and Tatum Bell were the Broncos’ former player ambassadors who greeted the military and first responder invitees. Ekuban, spokesperson, said how proud he was to be able to be part of the recognition ceremony.
“On behalf of the Denver Broncos organization, I want to say thank you, thank you so much for being here today,” Ekuban said. “Without your service and your commitment to keeping our dreams and freedom alive we would not be here and have the opportunities we have had in the National Football League.
We are here for you today, this is your day because you help to make it happen for us.”
Kent Fortune, vice president of the USAA Colorado Springs campus, echoed Ekuban’s statement when he addressed the group and expressed how proud USAA was to be a part of the day’s celebration. The day honored the service of military men and women and was just a small way to say thank you for their service, he said. Fortune encouraged everyone to be a Broncos fan for the day, much to the delight of Bronco personnel in attendance.
Denver Broncos President Joe Ellis offered his heartfelt thanks to the military community and said this was one of his favorite events during the football season. Being able to honor and recognize military members and first responders for all they do is important to him.
“Today is a special day, and we are honored to recognize the service men and women who make it possible for us to have what we have,” Ellis said. “We honor you today and justifiably so. This is one of my favorite days of the year, and I hope you all enjoy yourselves today. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of our owner Pat Bowlen, we thank you for everything you do for our country.”
Fort Carson Soldier Alexandra Jankowski took part in the event and said she felt it was special for her to be able to represent the country, the Army, the post and her fellow Soldiers in front of the Broncos fans. It was a great chance to show people the discipline, dedication and call to service that military people commit to, she said.
“I am proud to be able to show people how we come together and show people what we represent daily,” Jankowski said. “When I’m on that field, pride is the best thing that will be foremost in my mind because I am representing the nation and the Army and showing just how prepared we are to carry out our mission.”
Kiera Richardson and Larayna Haire were among the youngest members representing Fort Carson. In addition to the honor of representing the post, it was the first time Richardson had ever been to an NFL game, and she was excited about the new experience.
“I’ve been to a football practice before but never an (NFL) game. I am just happy to be able to represent the Army and represent my family today,” Richardson said.
Haire said this is the first time in her six-year stint in the Army that she has been honored to represent her fellow Soldiers at the Salute to Service game. She said she will always remember it as a great memory in her military career.