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Press Release
February 10, 2009
Portland Trailblazers basketball team hosts Oregon National Guardsmen, families
 
For Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Evans and his family, spending an evening with an NBA basketball team was a dream come true.

"We don't get a chance to go to the games, so they'll really enjoy this," Evans said about his four sons, as he hoisted his youngest, Jacob, onto his shoulder for a picture with Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach, Nate McMillan. "They're going to remember this forever."

Evans, who is with Alpha Battery, 2-218 Field Artillery Battalion, will deploy to Iraq this summer, along with more than 3,000 other Oregon National Guard members.

He and his wife Jennifer, and three other sons, Gavin, Dylan and Braden, joined 30 other Oregon Guard members and their families at the Memorial Coliseum, the evening of Feb. 9, during the "Make It Better Holiday Carnival" hosted by the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball franchise. The event was originally scheduled for Dec. 20, but was canceled due to inclement weather.

The annual event, sponsored by the Trail Blazers and Nike, is a way to say thank you to various groups throughout Oregon's communities, said Traci Rose, Vice-President of Community Relations for the Trail Blazers.

"Our organization is very sensitive to what's going on with the war and the families who are affected," Rose said. "Every year we get together and throw a big carnival for a group, and this year we decided to do it for military members and their families."

The event included carnival-style games, an inflatable play zone, a video game kiosk, double-shot basketball and ping pong. Nike provided special gift bags for the children. The soldiers and their families filled up on hotdogs, cotton candy and popcorn, or played games in the carnival-like atmosphere alongside NBA players who towered over the excited children.

Across the hall, the Oregon National Guard's 102 Civil Support Team set up a video-conference system, where Guard members and their families could interact via live teleconference with soldiers at Camp Victory in Iraq.

Allen Pine sat at the conference table with his two sons, Ryan, 16, and Liam, 14. His wife, Sgt. 1st Class Nancy Pine, is deployed to Iraq with the Oregon Army National Guard's 2-641 Aviation Battalion.

"We talk to her (on the phone) about every other night, but it's not the same as being able to see them," he said. "You get a feel for how they're doing when you see their face."

Pine thanked the Trail Blazers for organizing the event, and added that as of late, the team seems to be more involved in the community.

"It's great feedback for our community," he added.

Trail Blazers Head Coach, Nate McMillan, welcomed the soldiers and their families before introducing about 10 team members scattered throughout the crowd—which was highlighted by the team members' red and black basketball jerseys, intermixed with the gray of the soldiers' Army combat uniforms. McMillan told the soldiers it was "their night", and thanked them for their service and sacrifice.

"When I found out we were hosting the military, I knew we would have the opportunity to meet some of the soldiers in person," McMillan said. "We wanted to tell them thank you—not just the soldiers, but also the families for the sacrifice they all make to protect our country and our freedoms."

McMillan said all his players were enthusiastic and supportive of meeting the soldiers during the event. Most were surprised by the number of years most soldiers have been in the military.

"Most guys I talked to were in for more than 15 years," McMillan said. "I think that says a lot about these soldiers and what they do for our country."

Greg Oden, who plays #52, Center for the Trail Blazers, said he had a great time meeting and talking to the soldiers.

"These guys do so much for our country, it's great to do something for them," Oden said.

Rose said the event was fulfilling for the team members because once the season starts, they spend up to nine months on the road, usually away from home. Meeting the soldiers was a chance for them to give back to the community, but it also gave them a chance to show their appreciation for the sacrifices soldiers and their families go through.

"In all honesty, the soldiers are the heroes," Rose said.

Rose's sentiments seemed lost on several of the soldiers' children, who ran excitedly from one player to the next, asking for autographs or photo opportunities.

Sgt. Ryan Creswell, of Bravo Co., 41 Special Troops Battalion, and his wife Christina, son Jackson and daughter Emma spoke to McMillan before handing their camera to a bystander to take a picture of the group.

"This is great," Creswell said.

"We told our players about today's event, and they understand how dangerous the situation is for our country, and these soldiers fighting for us," McMillan said.

"I know the words are not enough to say thank you, and you wish there was something else you could do," McMillan continued. "So this is a way for our organization to show our support and thanks."


Photo:

090209-F-1639C-005: Allen Pine (center) chats with his wife, Oregon National Guard member, Sgt. 1st Class Nancy Pine, via video teleconference on Feb. 9, at the "Make It Better Holiday Carnival" hosted by the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball franchise. The Pine's two sons, Liam, 14 (red jacket), and Ryan, 16, were excited at the chance to see their mother, who is deployed to Iraq with the Oregon Army National Guard's 2-641 Aviation Battalion. The video link was provided by the Oregon Guard's 102 Civil Support Team at the Memorial Coliseum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)

090209-F-1639C-011: Portland Trail Blazers mascot "Blaze" entertains Gavin and Dylan Evans, who attended the "Make It Better Holiday Carnival" at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Ore., Feb. 9. Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Evans, (left), brought his entire family, including wife Jennifer, and other sons Braden and Jacob, to the evening event hosted by the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball franchise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)

090209-F-1639C-023: Oregon National Guard members and their families attend the "Make It Better Holiday Carnival" at the Memorial Coliseum, Feb. 9. Hosted by the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball franchise, the event honored military members, giving them a chance to meet with Trail Blazers team members and head coach Nate McMillan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)

090209-F-1639C-027-rev: Portland Trail Blazers head coach, Nate McMillan, gives a high-five to Jackson Creswell at the "Make It Better Holiday Carnival" at the Memorial Coliseum, Feb. 9. Jackson, and father, Sgt. Ryan Creswell, of Bravo Co., 41 Special Troops Battalion, and his wife Christina, and daughter Emma, spoke to McMillan before handing their camera to a bystander to take a picture of the group. Hosted by the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball franchise, the event honored military members, giving them a chance to meet with Trail Blazers team members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)