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Mets honor military with special night at Citi Field

Mets honor military with special night at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Days like Sunday force Sandy Alderson to think about his father, his time in the military and the men and women serving in the armed forces all over the world. The Mets' general manager, who served in the Marine Corps, deeply understands the importance of honoring the military.

"I can empathize because I was in the service myself, but they're the ones that are carrying the load. Both those in the military and their families," said Alderson, whose late father, John, served in the Air Force. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and what they give up for the rest of us."

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On the eve of Memorial Day, the Mets hosted their sixth annual Military Appreciation Night at Citi Field in conjunction with the USO of Metropolitan New York. After budget cuts that resulted from sequestration forced the cancellation of Fleet Week, the Mets wanted to expand their own celebration of the military.

Several organizations sent representatives to Citi Field to offer assistance to military members, including Weill Cornell Medical College's Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies, St. Joseph's College and Dowling College.

The Mets donated over 5,000 tickets to military personnel and their families for the team's game against the Braves on Sunday night. The event was one of the biggest military gatherings in New York City over Memorial Day weekend.

The event also brought troops and veterans from different generations together. It gave younger troops a chance to speak with Vietnam veterans and older members of the military, offering them the opportunity to share experiences and support.

Steve Castleton, a volunteer with the USO who helped organize Sunday's event, said it's something he enjoys seeing every year.

"And you see the reverence the Iraqi veterans have, they just idolize them because of everything they went through," Castleton said.

Major General Juan G. Ayala, who has served in the Marine Corps for 34 years, said it's a humbling experience to see all the support nights like Sunday offer.

"We've very grateful," Ayala said. "Our country's been at war for 10 years, and I think it's very touching to know that people appreciate what we do."

There were several different events honoring the military before the game.

Children of active servicemen and women read the Pledge of Allegiance, the USO Show Troupe sang for fans and there was a re-enlistment ceremony in front of the third-base dugout.

The Mets and Braves stood among members of the military along the first- and third-base lines for the presentation of colors and the singing of the national anthem.

And a member from each branch of the military threw out a first pitch.

"We're very honored what the community does for us," Ayala said. "We've very honored with the recognition."

Alderson said the Mets are very committed to honoring the military. And it's on nights like Sunday that show how important it is to honor the servicemen and women.

"Whether you go to a parade or just take 30 seconds to thank the person in uniform maybe flying on your plane," Alderson said, "just so they know that they're appreciated."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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