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'I absolutely love it, being out here in the uniform': Military members enjoy Salute Day at The Park

07302022 Military Appreciation Day KC 695

Technical Sergeant Tremayne Williams spent Saturday on duty -- dad duty. It was a unique outing for the girl dad, who came to the Washington Commanders training camp with his two daughters.

"This is big for me because I've never been to a training camp, and I'm able to have this experience with daughters," Williams said. "My girls play flag football, and it's great that they get to see professionals do what they're supposed to do and see if they can pick up anything from that."

The airman sat alongside his 12-year-old Bella, a running back, and 8-year-old Natalie, a wide receiver, to take in the practice scenes on the warm summer morning in Ashburn. The Williams' were among the 250 members of the military community to attend Salute Day.

In addition to a practice viewing, active-duty personnel, veterans and military families were treated to meet-and-greets with Washington Legends, President Jason Wright and head coach Ron Rivera as well as Commanders swag bags, food and a raffle. The event offered an opportunity to foster the team's cherished value of service and gave attendees a chance to connect with those within their own D.C., Maryland and Virginia (DMV) military community.

Bella and Natalie weren't the only Salute Day guests with a football background. Before his days in the Marine Corps, Lance Corporal Nicholas Clark played high school football and spent a good chunk of the practice viewing on Saturday admiring the guys in the position(s) he once played, defensive tackle and defensive end.

"I absolutely love it, being out here in the uniform and also watching them do their thing and seeing everyone out here to support," Clark said. "Really just out here to enjoy the moment while the moment lasts."

Technical Sergeant Zachary Smith grew up a Washington fan, watching games throughout his childhood with his dad and brother. Saturday was the 29-year-old's first time seeing his favorite team in person.

"I've been messaging my brother since I've been here," Smith said. "It's cool to finally see the players, and it just gets me excited for the season to start."

Lifelong fan and recently-minted season ticket member Justin Childress was on a similar wavelength. For Childress, the good feeling permeating the air on Saturday was not just about the players he was watching, but who he was watching them with. The former Army veteran, who has a son serving at Fort Hood and family who served in Vietnam and World War II, has a deep sense of appreciation for the military bond and the relationships it forges.

"Seeing all these guys who are serving the country right now here is pretty special," Childress said.

On the opposite side of Childress on the spectrum of Washington fandom sat Staff Sergeant Vanessa Alejo. The Hawaii-native, who recently served overseas in Guam, just moved to the area seven months ago. For her, Salute Day, which created a space for DMV-based military members like her to rally around their local team, came with an increased feeling of connectedness to her still-new home.

"Moving to a new duty station is pretty hard, because you don't know anybody," Alejo said. "Just being able to be out in a big group with not only military but civilians as well and just getting together means a lot."

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