The Rotary Club of the Emerald Coast hosted the 12th Miracle League Veterans Game on April 11 where 31 of our American Heroes and Veterans from the Chester Sims Veterans Nursing Home came to the Miracle League Field at Frank Brown Park for their semi-annual ‘Spring Training’ Baseball Game. This included 16 veterans who served in WWII (including 1 POW), 7 from Korea, 6 from Vietnam and 2 who served in Korea and Vietnam. Twenty five of the veterans were re-turning players and 6 new recruits came out for their first trip around the bases. These veterans represented all branches of service including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and even the Coast Guard.
Frank Brown Park rolled out the ‘green carpet’ for the veterans who arrived in First Class style in a luxury bus ride with a full escort from the Panama City Beach Police and Bay County Sheriff’s Department. Upon their arrival they were greeted with a Flag Line of patriotic fans and supporters who cheered them on as they made their way to the ball field.
John Byrne, Emerald Coast Rotary Club president and fellow Vietnam Veteran, said this is the club’s favorite event to support and is honored to show their thanks to the Sims Veterans for their service. “Some of these veterans did not get ‘welcomed home’ and we need to show our gratitude while we still can”. “We get great support from our club and community… the City of PC Beach, Bay County Sheriff’s Dept., Warrior Watch Riders, Soldiers Angels, & more.
During the introductions of the ‘starting lineups’ , a game medal was placed around each of the player’s necks and a special ribbon ceremony was held to remember the Sims Veterans who have played at a Miracle League Veterans Game but since passed away. This game debuted the new team of the ‘Angels in the Outfield’.
Dave Johnson, Founder of the Veterans Game said during the ceremony, “while sad, this is not to be a somber event as we want to celebrate these veterans’ lives and participation in previous Miracle League Veterans Games”. A variety of red, white and blue ribbons, each with a veterans name, branch and theater of service on them were hung on a specially built flagpole for the occasion. The ‘Angels in the Outfield” were then placed in center field during the game.
Patrick del Valle, game co-founder added, “We will make this a special part of our ceremonies each game and our ‘Angels’ will always fly with us!” Johnson and del Valle agreed this new addition will be a very special part of each game from now on. “Our goal was always to make these veterans feel ‘remembered’ and now they always will be”.
Over the course of the past 11 games, and six years, 76 of the 143 players have passed away making for quite a team of ‘Angels’… and makes a beautiful display of colorful ribbons fluttering in the breeze.! “Losing our first veteran two days after the first game made us realize how important it to keep doing this event as, for some, it truly is.