Sheri Lipscomb, a member of the five TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) families honored by the Washington Commanders at their Salute to Service game, had tried to keep her emotions at bay. She was touched on Saturday when she learned Washington players would be wearing her late husband's initials on their helmets during Sunday's game. She was moved by the hospitality she experienced at the stadium and the chance to be around other TAPS families.
But when she had a chance to be on the field in-game on Sunday, she could not, as she put it, "hold it together" anymore.
"I heard his name, and it was like, 'Oh my god.' That's when it hit me," Lipscomb said. "I don't even know how to put it into words. It's a dream come true honestly. This is something that Ric wanted to do with little Ric especially, bring him to a game here in the D.C. area, and he never got to."
During the second quarter of the last Sunday's Salute to Service game, Lipscomb stood with her two sons on the field as the Commanders paid tribute to her late husband, Ricardo Lipscomb. A lifelong Washington fan who grew up in Virginia, Ricardo loved fishing and talking about football with his boys. In 2004, the Army sergeant passed away while running a PT test.
Eighteen years on, the Lipscomb family was able to make it to the home of Ricardo's favorite team and honor his memory among the Burgundy & Gold family. From the fallen and active-duty members to veterans and loved ones, the Commanders' Nov. 6 Salute to Service game was all about giving a special spotlight to those who served.
A big focus of the day's festivities was on providing a one-of-a-kind experience for members of the military community to connect with one another. In the EA Sports Gaming Lounge at FedExField, the Wounded Warriors Gaming Tournament offered an ideal opportunity for veterans to socialize, have fun and play video games together.
"I feel like I'm back where I should be. It's so great to be around veterans again," Army and Navy veteran Jason Parker said on the sidelines of a Madden game.
Camaraderie was also fostered and on display at the USO Tent, the Commanders' designated military space every gameday, where hundreds of service members were able to relax, eat and hang out. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Mayra Moreno was pleasantly surprised to run into now-vets that she had served with over a decade ago when she was a marine. Meanwhile, Lt. Junior Grade Laura Irish of the U.S. Coast Guard was struck by the wide array of military representation all around her.
"It's cool to get to be a part of this and be here with so many other people who at least have a couple things in common with you," Irish said. "I've recognized a lot of badges but there's so many more I don't. It's kind of fun. There's such a large range of who in the service is here in terms of branches, ranks, job, all of it."
The groups of men and women in uniform moving throughout the stadium was a sight to behold on gameday. Just as much as he appreciated the chance to connect with fellow service members, Sgt. Josue Patricio loved mingling with the civilian public in such a fun and energetic environment.
"My favorite part of today is being out here with the fans, being out here with the general public and getting to enjoy the game altogether as one," Patricio said. "I think the relationship between the military and the Commanders is very important in terms of exposure for both, and we're glad to be here to support the team."
That exposure is significant in that it can develop new understandings of the military community for the unfamiliar.
"I think some part of America doesn't know a whole lot about the military just because they don't have any relatives or no anyone who has served, so days like today are really powerful," said Gen. David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Berger's good friend, colleague and fellow Washington fan Sgt. Maj. Blackman was filled with pride watching the military and civilian public come together at FedExField.
"It's been really cool to see some of the kids, some of the people in the stands who want to shake hands and take photos with the service members," Blackman said. "It's a really great way to engage everyone."
Be it the words spoken by a fan to a service member or a thoughtfully set up event, the message communicated across Salute to Service day was one of deep gratitude towards our country's heroes.
"It means a lot to see people reach out and say 'thank you.' It can be a really mixed bag when you're in the military in terms of what people actually think of you," Irish said. "It's just nice to be appreciated here today."