Celtics Give Thanks Through Seats for Soldiers Program

BOSTON – OmniPresence and the Army National Guard of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire partnered with the Boston Celtics for the fourth annual Seats for Soldiers program on Thursday, Jan. 13 and Friday, Jan. 14.

The program kicked off Thursday morning when members of the 3rd Battalion 126 AVN spent a half hour talking to Celtics guard Ray Allen via video conference. The group, currently stationed in Kuwait, had been deployed last year from Otis Air Force in Cape Cod. As one of them told Allen, “We left for Kuwait while you guys were in the playoffs last year and we hope to be back for the playoffs this year!”

Ray Allen

Using technology presented by OmniPresence, Ray Allen chats with troops in Kuwait via teleconference.
Heather Walker/Celtics

Having lived in California, Oklahoma, South Carolina, England and Germany as a child, Allen knew all too well the life of a military family. To that extent, Allen was more than honored to speak with members of the army when the opportunity arose.

The conference began as Allen addressed the soldiers: “I’ve got a lot of respect for what you all do. I always hear people talk about athletes as heroes and I find it awkward because I came from a military family. I know what it means to truly be a hero and you guys epitomize a hero.”

Following Allen’s kind remarks, the soldiers had a chance to ask their favorite basketball player questions. “What is it like to play games in the NBA with huge crowds watching?”

“What I do is similar to what you all do,” answered Allen. “Games are easy compared to practice. I practice extremely hard just like you all train hard. We both want to be prepared.”

“What has been your most memorable moment in your career?”

“The best moment would probably have to be when we won the championship in 2008,” said the nine-time NBA All-Star. “I was going through personal struggles with the diabetes diagnosis of my son but when I learned that he would be OK around the time that we won the championship, so it was a wonderful moment in my life.”

The 3rd Battalion members enjoyed Allen’s candidness and in turn they all opened up to him about their families and life in the military.

Before the video conference ended, Allen wanted to make sure the group knew how much they are appreciated for what they do.

“I can’t thank you all enough," he said, squeaking in one last comment. "You risk your life every day for our country. You all are the real heroes.”

Following Thursday’s video conference, the culmination of Seats for Soldiers came as the Celtics played the Charlotte Bobcats. Celtics players and staff, along with season ticket holders, donated more than 600 tickets to our troops and their families for the game. The in-game entertainment featured interviews from soldiers, a live feed to troops in Kuwait and Technical Sergeant Greg Pauli being honored as the Hero Among Us for his bravery.

At the conclusion of the game, Allen came out to greet 100 soldiers and their families. Their smiling faces said it all. “This has been an awesome night,” exclaimed one happy soldier.