JACKSONVILLE, Fla – As he recovered from a wound in Iraq, Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Berninger figured he would watch the Super Bowl on television and cheer for his New England Patriots (search).
It turns out that he will have a much better seat for the game.
"I have never been so surprised and grateful for a gift like this, even on Christmas morning," said Berninger of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. "I am definitely a New Englander and have never been to a college game or an NFL game, let alone the Super Bowl. I can't wait to go root on my team."
The Browns' donation — Super Bowl tickets are priced at $500 and $600 apiece — will go to Marines currently serving at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Parris Island, S.C.; Reserve Command in New Orleans and U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla. The donation is an extension of the club's "Hats Off to Our Heroes" program that honors members of the military.
"It was a wonderful act to see an organization that appreciates the contributions these young Marines are making to our country," said Col. Jim Walker, secretary to the commandant of the Marine Corps. "This will truly be a special event for Marines who otherwise never would have thought about attending a Super Bowl."
The Browns have a special connection to the Corps. Late owner Al Lerner was a first lieutenant in the Marines from 1955-57. The club flies the Marine flag outside its team offices in Berea, Ohio, participates in the "Toys for Tots" program and Marine jets do ceremonial fly-overs as part of pregame festivities during the season.
"This is but a small gesture for some of the men and women of our country who have so selflessly devoted themselves to the service of our nation," the club said in a statement.
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