For the 10th year, the Dallas Mavericks and American Airlines partnered for Seats for Soldiers, a one-of-a-kind experience for our nation’s military heroes, who were treated to a night of gratitude, good food and front-row seats at a basketball game.
It all started when the Mavs Dancers and ManiAACs, along with Mavs season ticket holders Lynda and Mark Thompson, Don Knobler, and Shannon and Ted Skokos, went to San Antonio to join more than 100 members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from Brooke Army Medical Center on their journey up to Dallas.
A special guest was 96-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Guthrie, who sat under the Mavs basket and enjoyed his first professional basketball game.
A group of grateful Dallasites awaited them all at DFW Airport, and then they boarded a bus to Abacus for a meal prepared by Kent Rathbun and his staff.
“We got asked to be a part of this 10 years ago, and even then it was a no-brainer,” Rathbun said. “This is one of those things where I just wish it happened more often. I think it should happen all over the country. This is a major deal for us. We feel like they don’t get enough appreciation, and we want to show ours.”
After hearing from Rathbun and Michael Finley, the group got back on the bus and headed to the American Airlines Center, where they were greeted by more fans as they entered the arena. An extra-special guest was 96-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Guthrie, who sat under the Mavs basket and enjoyed his first-ever professional basketball game.
“I just wanted to do something for these soldiers who were injured in the war,” said Seats For Soldiers founder Neal Hawks. “Now we have the whole front row at the Mavs game.”
Participants not only got to watch a great game against the Milwaukee Bucks, but they also got to hear local favorite Jack Ingram sing the national anthem. And while the 10th annual Seats for Soldiers played during the first-quarter break, there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.
Post-game, soldiers visited with the team, including general manager Donnie Nelson, head coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban. Tony Romo was even spotted hanging out with the soldiers, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
Hawks started Seats for Soldiers in 2004 and has now managed to secure the entire front row for the event valued at more than $350,000.