SALT LAKE CITY — In honor of Veterans Day, Hill Air Force Base and other military services partnered with Utah Jazz players for a joint mission last Thursday as they worked together at the George E. Whalen Veterans Affairs Medical Center as part of a first-of-its kind collaboration between the NBA and Department of Defense known as the Commitment to Service project.
All 30 NBA teams across the country and their local military participated in similar events around Veterans Day as part of the Department of Defense and NBA initiative for service members and athletes to work together serving their communities.
Utah Jazz players and local military personnel brought their own rakes, shovels and gloves and went to work refurbishing the hospital courtyard with new landscaping bark, replaced old lighting, served a meal at the nearby Fisher House, hung Christmas lights in trees and visited with hospitalized veterans.
Military members from different services worked side by side in a non-deployed environment. “I feel like being here shows how much we care about the men and women who served before us and that by serving we’re showing we’re all a part of one big community. We’re here to help each other,” said Senior Airman Pierce Ryan of the 729th Air Control Squadron, who was using a hammer and chisel to remove bricks from around the courtyard fountain.
Watching the Marines carry pallets of mulch, Airmen wheeling loads of bricks through the hospital lobby, and Jazz players shaking hands and taking pictures with hospitalized veterans was a unique experience for Chief Master Sgt. Rhonda Miller, 75th Air Base Wing command chief.
“It’s fun to partner with the Jazz. Projects like this are a great way for our Airmen to show their commitment to service. We all enjoy being part of something bigger, and giving back to the veteran’s community is a great way for us to say thanks for all their service,” Miller said.
Seeing his athletes partnering with local military was a unique experience for Utah Jazz team president Randy Rigby. “We’re honored to be serving together with the men and women of the military. We appreciate the opportunity to give back and do it alongside the men and women of the armed services who do so much for all of us. One thing that’s been evident today is that service members know how to serve and they know how to work.” Rigby said. “The Jazz have a longstanding relationship with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and we are looking forward to expanding our outreach efforts to include hands-on service.”
The efforts put forth by both groups will have far-reaching effects, according to Col. Ronald Jolly, 75th Air Base Wing and Installation commander at Hill Air Force Base. “Making a commitment to service is about being a part of something bigger than you are. The military is about teamwork, whether that’s active, Guard, Reserve or civil service, and we cannot be successful without it,” Jolly said. “Working together with the Utah Jazz is a great opportunity to show that teamwork and give back to our veterans in the community.”
Those who participated in the event included Utah Jazz players Trey Burke, Trevor Booker, Jeremy Evans, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Jordan Hamilton, Rodney Hood, and Steve Novak, Jazz President Randy Rigby, Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey, Jazz Assistant General Manager Justin Zanik, Jazz Broadcaster Thurl Bailey, Jazz Broadcaster Ron Boone, Jazz Broadcaster David Locke, America First Jazz Dancers and military personnel from Hill Air Force Base, U.S. Navy, Utah National Guard and U.S. Marine Corps.