Following the jump, the Yankees will pay special tribute to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation by honoring three outstanding recent graduates, and the mother of two current students who benefitted from the foundation’s contributions to their college education:
Cristina Davis is the daughter of Army Green Beret Master Sgt. Jefferson “JD” Davis who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2001 while deployed with the 5th Special Forces Group. Cristina attended the University of Tennessee and graduated with a degree in Psychology. She currently lives in Missouri.
Michelle Blessinger is the daughter of Air Force special operator Staff Sgt. John Blessinger who lost his life in Saudi Arabia in 1991 while assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron. Michelle is currently majoring in Nursing at Pierce College in Tacoma, Washington.
Nicole Goldsmith is the sister of Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Wyatt Goldsmith who lost his life in Afghanistan last year while assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group.
Dawn Jonas is the surviving spouse of Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Rock Blais who lost his life in 2001. Dawn is accompanied by their two children, Kathryn and Scott, who are currently attending St. Francis College.
In addition, all Yankees players on Saturday will wear a special cap in celebration of Military Appreciation Day. Encompassing the same official base color as a normal Yankees cap, the “NY” logo will be filled with a digital camouflage appliqué, part of MLB’s redesign of the traditional red, white and blue color scheme used in prior “stars and stripes” caps.
Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher will literally go a step further by donning a pair of limited edition, military-inspired custom cleats by New Balance. The game-worn cleats, primarily black in color, feature camouflage accents and details with elements honoring 68 Whiskey, a military occupational specialty for healthcare specialists in the U.S. Army.
The cleats worn by Swisher, as well as the special caps worn by Yankees players, will be a part of two larger auction packages offered by Steiner Sports, with proceeds benefitting the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Registration for the auction items—each of which include the chance to meet Swisher—is currently underway at http://auction.steinersports.com, and will run through June 15, 2012 at 10:00 p.m.
The Yankees will also welcome Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez to throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. An Air Force para-rescueman who is specially trained in recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments, Colon-Lopez is a Bronx native who is currently the Command Chief for the 1st Special Operations Wing in Hurlburt Field in Florida.
In 2004, he was deployed to Afghanistan to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons and to capture a drug kingpin who was funding terrorism. Colon-Lopez was on the first of four helicopters, which took sustained small-arms fire and was seriously damaged as it landed. Though he did not know the size of the enemy force, Colon-Lopez moved forward under fire, overrunning the enemy positions. His action suppressed enemy fire against the other three helicopters. He and the team drove the enemy away, killed two of the enemy, captured 10 and destroyed a stash of rocket propelled grenade (RPG) rounds and small caliber weapons. Because of their quick reaction and suppression of the danger facing them, no Americans were killed.
As a result of his heroic actions, Colon-Lopez was awarded the Bronze Star with valor and the newly created Air Force Combat Action Medal. He was the only Hispanic amongst the first six airmen to be awarded this honor.
Former U.S. Army Elite Task Force Ranger Keni Thomas – a member of the Army unit that fought at the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993, which was later depicted in the film Black Hawk Down – will sing the national anthem. The West Point Honor Guard will present the colors. Additionally, Master Sergeant MaryKay Messenger of the West Point Band will perform “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch.
The United States Special Operations Command consists of 62,000 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel, providing highly trained, rapidly deployable and regionally focused personnel in support of global requirements. Special Operations personnel were the first on the ground in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. They are the most skilled and elite members of the military and are the backbone of the United States Armed Forces.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is a top-rated nonprofit organization that provides support and assistance to the families of fallen and wounded Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel.