Virginia Tech Bball Ceremony To Honor Veterans

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Our virtue of the week this week is Sportsmanship -  The strength to adhere to the correct principles of athletic competition at all times.

One area of Sportsmanship often overlooked is the respect and honor that we should show during the National Anthem.

Virginia Tech head men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams gave his team a very real and very enlightening lesson which should be shown/taught/imitated on every team across the country.

Virtue = Strength, 
Lou Judd 
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Men's basketball honors veterans in team ceremony 
Hokies show respect for service to country

Service is a big part of the culture and life of Virginia Tech. Such a major part that the University’s motto is Ut Prosim, Latin for “That I May Serve”.


Service is never taken lightly in this community and to that end; Virginia Tech head men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams gave his team a very real and very enlightening view of “Service”.

On Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m., the Hokies assembled in the Hahn Hurst Basketball Practice Center for what was billed to be a somewhat typical early bird practice. But instead of practicing, Williams led the team to the Virginia Tech Carilion Court at Cassell Coliseum for a very special presentation.

“To see a coach take on the responsibility of showing the student-athletes the importance of the values of the country and the people that have served this country is very admirable,” Sandy Smith, a Marine Corps veteran and an associate AD at Virginia Tech, said. “I’d like to thank Coach Williams personally because I think he’s done an excellent job of instilling leadership and camaraderie to the student athletes. It was appreciated by everyone I spoke with today.”


As the team stood on the court, a group of 21 members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets descended down the stands from the concourse, each carrying a chair. 
The cadets placed the chairs in the team bench area and stood at attention.

The curtains parted in the tunnel and out came nearly 20 veterans from the area. Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines were represented. World War II to the present, including Easley Smith, a WWII pilot in his 90s. Even a number with current ties to not only the University, but also the athletics department.

Coach Williams said a few words, making the point that the reason these players have the right to sit in these chairs and play this game is a direct result of the service and sacrifice of our veterans. He then instructed the players on the proper etiquette on the proper way to stand at attention during the national anthem and then had the Hokies line up as Isaac Barber sang the anthem.


Following the anthem, the team was introduced, one at a time, to each of the veterans. Paying close attention, the team learned of each veteran’s life and service and heard words of wisdom. Following this, the players and veterans stood as one for one more rendition of the anthem.

The morning was not over yet, as Coach Williams gave each veteran a quote card and then dismissed the team, as classes loomed on the schedule. But an interesting thing happened. None of the players immediately left the arena.

Conversations, handshakes, reverence and smiles filled the court. Players signed autographs and thanked veterans for their service. Photos were taken and friendships made.


Helping Williams and the basketball staff organize this event was the sport’s administrator, Tom Gabbard. Gabbard is the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Facilities and Operations and an Army veteran.

“Once the request was made, it kind of grabbed its own momentum,” Gabbard said. “It wasn’t a problem getting the veterans to participate; that was the easy part. Everybody I asked jumped on it. Primarily, because of the importance of what Buzz was trying to teach the kids. Deep in their heart, it is an important issue.


“To get 30 cadets at 5:30 in the morning was no problem. They offered the Color guard. Buzz’s request was for veterans. Once I shared with Buzz the momentum, it became a snowball effect. It all came together.”

In the end, the players gained a deep and lasting respect for those who have, do and will serve our country. They now realize that veterans live the same lives as the rest of us, but have fought to protect our nation and our way of life. And in the end, that’s the best gift we can give any veteran.


The Virginia Tech Athletics Department has a set of core values. The department’s five core values are integrity, honor, excellence, strong together and service. This is another way of being true to those values and passing them along to more members of the community.

Service. It now means a lot more to the Hokies, not that it didn’t already do so. This was a great way of tying concept into reality, with a very meaningful purpose.