Nets honor Veterans with Poignant Visit
to Historic US Army Garrison Fort Hamilton

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins
Nets and Vets

Adam Pantozzi/Brooklyn Nets

(November 11, 2013)
Brook Lopez has fond memories of this grandfather, Bob Ledford, reminiscing with some of the men with which he served in World War II, the brothers in arms regaling each other with stories of their time in the service.

Lopez was amused, fascinated at times.

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But he never really had a connection to their experiences, never knew the sacrifices that they made, and the commitment it took to wear the uniform until Monday.

Lopez, and the entire Nets team, spent Veterans Day at the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn.

The Nets practiced before a mesmerized crowd of some 300 servicemen and servicewomen.

Those anonymous heroes cheered when Mason Plumlee went in for a breakaway slam dunk and nodded approvingly when Joe Johnson drained a deep corner 3.

Later in the day the Nets helped serve a meal to these men and women that protect our way of life.

Every veteran on the base received a T-shirt and $50 gift card courtesy of Key Food. The Nets also handed out commemorative Challenge Coins.

"I think probably a lot of people didn't know there was a fort here, right here in our home in Brooklyn,'' said Nets Coach Jason Kidd. "So be able to share time. We're going to have lunch and to be able to serve them dinner is something special."

"They serve us every day."

Kidd's father was an Air Force mechanic. Paul Pierce said he had several uncles that were in the service.

But for most of these Nets, this poignant day spent on this hallowed ground was the first time they had been up close and personal with the men and women that are part of a unique team.

"We play basketball for a living and eventually that's going to end,'' said Pierce. "The things that these soldiers do, it's part of every day life."

"We don't realize it because being in the game of basketball is not a real, normal life. But we understand these are soldiers that fight for our country and really serve to protect and sacrifice so much."

"They sacrifice their families. They sacrifice so many other things for the protection of our country."

When practice ended the Nets were presented with one of the last remaining commemorative flags that honor the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

There are only about 15 such flags remaining. The others have been presented to the families of those that lost loved ones on that tragic day.

"I think since 9-11 there is a greater sense of patriotism in this country,'' said sergeant Derek Bishop of Long Island. "It means so much to us that people appreciate what we do and what the men and women that have come before us have done.''

"I've heard of one or two members of a team coming to visit a base but I've never heard of entire team coming and spending a day. And to do it on Veterans Day carries so much additional meaning.''

It carried great meaning for the Nets as well. Lopez said the stories he heard as a child came to life today.

"To be here and be able to hang out with the soldiers and get to know them personally and put a face behind these heroes is really a great honor for me.'' said Lopez. "It's something I feel very privileged to do.''

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