Playing for the heroes: How the Dallas Mavericks honor our nation’s military on and off the court

by Sabrina Corsiga, Special Contributor | December 6, 2019

When Staff Sergeant Leroy Petry walked around the Dallas Mavericks court after the “Seats for Soldiers” game, offering his prosthetic hand to other military service members and to high-five the Mavs players on their game win, it signified more than a moment of celebration. It also represented a moment to recognize the harrowing sacrifice he made for his fellow soldiers and for his country. Petry lost his hand to a grenade while serving in a combat operation in Afghanistan in 2008; three years later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor in combat.

It is Petry’s story, along with the stories of several of the soldiers who joined him that night at the Mavs game, that inspires the Dallas Mavs’ commitment to honor and celebrate the sacrifice of our active and retired military service members. By giving back to these brave heroes and encouraging fans to follow suit, the Mavs are setting an admirable example and showing everyone why they play for the heroes.

Commitment to Service

Each year, in celebration of Veterans Day, the Mavs host Hoops for Troops, a weeklong collaboration with members of the U.S. Armed Forces to make a positive impact in the D-Fw community. This year, the Mavs kicked off Hoops for Troops week with a “Commitment to Service” volunteerism event on Nov. 5, during which Mavs staff and players partnered with Minnie’s Food Pantry to pack meals for veterans from the local VA hospital. Rather than doing the job alone, the Mavs worked alongside members of the 301st Fighter Wing Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth to complete over 500 meals together.

For Senior Master Sgt. Jonique Young, 301st Fighter Wing Superintendent of Religious Affairs and Hoops for Troops volunteer, being able to partner with the Mavs to help veterans in need was a gratifying experience that empowered her to be a better person.

“This opportunity allows me to give back to my fellow veterans and knowing that the resources we put together goes to support those veterans in need is very fulfilling,” Young said.

Cheryl Jackson, founder of Minnie’s Food Pantry, expressed her appreciation as a participant in Hoops for Troops not only as a Mavericks fan, but also as the daughter of a former Marine.

“[It was] important for me to make sure that our veterans were taken care of and not only to take care of the veterans, but to take care of them with [other] soldiers,” Jackson said.

Seats for Soldiers 

In continuation of Hoops for Troops week, the Mavericks hosted their 15th annual Seats for Soldiers event on Nov. 6, during which Mavs season ticket members gifted their courtside seats to wounded service members. Volunteer pilots and crew from American Airlines flew a private charter from Dallas to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to pick up more than 100 service members for the event. Prior to the evening’s game, the soldiers were joined by reservists from the Texas Army National Guard and treated to a four-course meal at Nick & Sam’s Park Cities along with a visit from Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall. 

“I proudly say that I am an American and I get to do what I do every day because of [our troops],” Marshall said. “This is the best day of the season and one of the proudest moments I have had in this job.”

Former Mavs players Michael Finley and Jason Terry were also on hand to help honor military in attendance at the special dinner. Terry called Seats for Soldiers a humbling experience and said that having the privilege to participate in the event is his way to give back to our nation’s heroes.

“Basketball is just a platform that we use at times to show our gratitude,” said Terry. “[At Seats for Soldiers], there’s no more [of] a greater night that will be evident.”

Terry was also present to commend another Medal of Honor recipient: Petty Officer Mike Thornton, a retired United States Navy SEAL who received the U.S. military’s highest decoration for saving the life of a fellow SEAL in the Vietnam War.

It was a close game throughout, but with the support and cheers from their honored front row guests, the Mavs fought their way to a 107-106 victory.

“It’s a very special night for a lot of obvious reasons,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. The 13-2 record on Seats for Soldiers nights shows how this special event inspires the Mavs to bring even more fight to the game. “It provides motivation for sure. You see you a lot of folks who have made the ultimate sacrifice, who are injured due to their service. We can never thank them enough and it’s a great gesture for our court side season ticket members to give up their seats,” says Carlisle.

The night concluded with a meet and greet, where veterans were able to take pictures and get autographs with the entire Dallas Mavericks team, as well as coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban. By playing for the heroes, the Mavs demonstrate their gratitude to our nation’s military members while creating a lasting impact on the men and women who serve our country.

The Mavs include these communities in their commitment to change lives in North Texas, and their fans can take pride in living in a city that comes together in support of one another. The Mavs prove why they play for D-FW, both on and off the court. To learn more about the Dallas Mavericks’ efforts to propel our community forward, visit mavs.com/community.

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