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Absence of flyovers on Opening Day a loss for military and country

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Amid the joys and celebrations of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day festivities throughout the United States Monday, there was an absence that went virtually unnoticed by many in the crowds of sold out ballparks. 

Tradition says that after the last note of the country’s national anthem, a military flyover of some sort should put the final exclamation point on the last note of “…brave!!!” But this year, thanks to the military’s decision to ground all military ceremonial “flyovers,” millions of Americans were left without a critical opportunity to not only showcase our military might, but perhaps the first opportunity to see the military in action and think of a future of service in it.

My friend, Mike, was supposed to lead two Navy F/A-18 Hornets over Yankee Stadium yesterday. Instead, he was in civilian clothes standing in the outfield of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C for the home opener against the Florida Marlins. I could not help but think of all the children and young adults packed into Yankee Stadium who would miss out on one of America’s signature pregame festivities. 

Millions were left without a critical opportunity to witness the military in action, perhaps for the first time, and think of a future service in it.

For generations of military men and women, seeing the military for the first time often comes in the form of flyover before a big sporting event. Many times, network TV carries the event as well. 

The exposure to the military is critical in the recruiting process. Kids should be allowed the opportunity to see these jets in order to help fill the void left when guys like Mike move up the military ranks. Pilots as young as 24 fly these multimillion dollar aircraft. It’s not just the future aviators that miss out—it is our entire Armed Forces.

Some may argue that flyovers are not necessary. They are costly flights and do not bring about any tangible value. 

Those who hold such views are incorrect. Military flyovers are training flights. The hours spent training in formation flying are critical for pilots to one day use these skills to fly in harm’s way or in a “show of force,” to a potential adversary.  Ask any combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he or she will never complain about the sight of military aircraft providing cover overhead. Back home, you will not find many sports fans who don’t enjoy the sight as well.

The Washington Nationals made the most of the flyover ban yesterday. They wisely chose recent Medal of Honor recipient former Army Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha to throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. James Brown, host of CBS’s “NFL Today” read Staff Sergeant Romesha’s citation for bravery. The crowd exploded in appreciation. 

But next time, I want to see Mike and other aviators flying overhead, not standing in the outfield watching the game. The future of our military is at stake.  The military needs to do its part to inspire the next generation of heroes.

Opening Day was a missed opportunity that should not be repeated.