It was only fitting that on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the Washington Redskins would open their home, FedExField, to our Armed Forces for a very special ceremony.
Army Spc. Christopher Stymiest – who's one of the biggest Redskins fans there is – wanted to have his reenlistment ceremony on the very field his favorite football team is set to do battle on this coming Monday night. The Redskins were more than accommodating to Stymiest's request, as the ceremony took place on one of the sidelines, where Army Maj. John C. Gardner presided.
Gardner and Stymiest were both a little nervous, because they were in such a cavernous building, but they soldiered up and powered through the ceremony, which was watched by a big group of Stymiest's closest friends and family.
Gardner says it was an event he wouldn't have turned down for anything.
"I'm honored. I'm honored and I'm proud," Gardner said. "I've known Chris for a long time, and he's had his trials and tribulations and he's pulled through. He's an awesome person, and an awesome soldier and I'm honored to do this."
"He's dedicated, he's honorable, he's motivated and he makes a great example for other younger soldiers," Gardner said.
When it comes to serving in the military, it's a generational thing in the Stymiest family. Stymiest's father, Glenn, served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army. His two grandfathers served our country as well.
"It's just a big family thing," Stymiest said. "That's where I wanted to go with my life, and I don't regret the decision one bit and I love it."
"Without a doubt, it's one of the greatest feelings I've had in my life," Stymiest said of joining the U.S. Army. "I put a lot of work into it, and do a lot of cool things [and] I see a lot of cool places. It's something that less than one percent of the United States population does, so it's good to be part of a family like that and have that support from your brothers and sisters."
Glenn was overwhelmed when he walked into FedExField and saw his son's name and title on the high-definition screens. It was a sight Glenn will never forget, and one that made the ceremony that much more special for him.
"You wouldn't believe how proud I am," Glenn said. "I really can't even explain how I'm feeling. Walking down the steps, and seeing my son's name on the billboards, that was just the ultimate power trip for me. I'm so proud of him, [and] I'm proud of the Redskins organization for allowing us to do this. They went above and beyond the call of duty by helping out us and having him reenlist."
Speaking of emotions, they came front and center both for Gardner and Stymiest when they spoke on the anniversary of 9/11 and what it meant for them to commemorate that tragic day with the ceremony at the stadium.
"This is a very special day," Gardner said, as he fought back tears. "It's branded into every American what happened 15 years ago. Me, personally, I reenlisted after 9/11. It's a sad day in American history that something like that happened on our soil and I'll never forget it. This day is very special, and it will be for as long as I live."
"It's a humbling day," Stymiest said. "It's one of those days that America comes together and remembers all the countless innocent civilians, and police officers, and firefighters, and paramedics, and search dogs and volunteers that gave their lives to help total strangers. It's definitely a humbling day."
Check out photos of Specialist Christopher Stymiest's reenlistment ceremony to the U.S. Army on Sept. 11, 2016 at FedExField in Landover, Md.