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CMU student veterans and Department of Athletics coordinate first CMU game day flyover

Aerial milestone endcaps a week of honoring veterans

CMU student veterans informed a number of disabled military service members at the veterans hospital that they would receive complementary VIP tickets to attend last Saturday’s Maverick football game. They were told these tickets were meant to honor their service to the nation. They were not told that they would also witness the first sporting-event military flyover in CMU’s history.

As the Maverick Stampede marching band played the final note of the National Anthem, two fighter jets from the Fallon Naval air station soared across Stocker Stadium in a thundering gesture honoring the more than 400 student veterans at CMU and the thousands of U.S. military veterans and first responders who live in western Colorado. The jets were flown by U.S. Navy Commander Moore who was also honored during half time festivities.

“Not only does a military flyover signify we have arrived when it comes to university athletics, but the fighter jets represented heights we are willing to go to when serving veterans,” said CMU Veterans Benefits Specialist and student veteran alumni Braydon Gear.

Just before kickoff Gear joined Veteran’s Benefits and Services Coordinator Amanda Herron in picking up disabled service member from the VA Hospital and transporting them to the game where they watched the flyover from the CMU hospitality suite.

“President Foster asked that we really try to surprise some of the veterans who may not get around as often as they might like," said Herron. “Including these servicemen was a really nice experience and one we believe is at the heart of our mission.”

Former service member John Stratton was among those veterans picked up at the hospital by CMU. On

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John Stratton, 4th from the left, enjoys first outing in Grand Valley

arriving in the hospitality suite, he explained to Herron that this was among his first outings in Grand Junction, and that the occasion was a wonderful introduction to the veteran community at CMU.

The fighter jet flyover marked the end of a full week for the Student Veterans Association at CMU as they worked all week to honor service women and men of the community.

In addition to providing special game-day accommodations for a number of disabled veterans, CMU Athletics provided discounted ticketing and a free tailgate picnic to all first responders, veterans and their families. The tailgate picnic was hosted in partnership with SVA and occurred in the Lincoln Park Barn. The location was selected due to its close proximity to the playing field allowing veterans and their families to easily access the grandstands and watch what became one of CMU’s best played games of the season.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased that our Mavericks competed well for veterans and first responders who deserve nothing less,” said CMU Co-Athletic Director Bryan Rooks. Rooks, alongside colleague and fellow athletic director Kris Mort, worked with their department to organize a special half-time program that honored veterans and first responders including police, firefighters and EMTs.

“From the kickoff to the fly over, the theme of the day was acknowledging those who make education and sports possible in the world today,” said Mort. “Without the safety and security afforded by veterans and first responders, we would not be playing football.”

The Saturday before the flyover game CMU student veterans joined military leaders, local law enforcement and area first responders bringing premier athlete and world-famous U.S. veteran Kirstie Ennis to CMU.

Kirstie Ennis is a former United States Marine Corp Helicopter Gunner. Her story is unique. As an amputee, Ennis is a seven summits mountain climber, a Paralympic snowboarder and a national speaker and advocate for veterans. Ennis also served in the United States Marine Corp as an aircraft mechanic.

During service in Afghanistan Ennis’s sacrificed her leg after a Marine Corp helicopter went down. After more than 40 surgeries, and the amputation of her leg — and a life-threatening infection — the former Marine sergeant has still accomplished more at 28 years old than many people achieve in a lifetime.

“The time honored ceremony of a game day military flyover really is a big deal for CMU athletics and CMU student veterans,” said CMU President Tim Foster. These everyday milestones have added up through the years to make CMU the university that it is today, and student veterans continue to be a big part of making these milestones.”

Foster concluded his thoughts on the day by thanking the Grand Junction Regional Airport and CMU employee Tom Benton for assisting in securing the game day flyover and events.

Student veterans looking for support or seeking ways to give back to other veterans are encouraged to contact CMU’s Veterans Services Coordinator at aherron@coloradomesa.edu.

  • CMU veteran guest at hospital pickup

    CMU veteran guest at hospital pickup.

  • Veteran Mav horns after flyover

    Veteran Mav horns after flyover.

  • Veterans honored by CMU on gridiron

    Veterans honored by CMU on gridiron.

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Written by David Ludlam