December 8, 2014 (DALLAS, TX) Surrounded by Mavs Dancers, ManiAACs, photographers and Mavs season ticket holders Mark and Lynda Thompson, Don Knobler and Ted and Shannon Skokos, 100+ members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines boarded an American Airlines 757 from San Antonio International to DFW yesterday afternoon. After a warm welcome at DFW and changing into Seats for Soldiers hats and t-shirts provided by the staff and crew, the group traveled to Knox-Henderson for a meal by Kent Rathbun and his staff at Abacus.
“We got asked to be a part of this 10 years ago, and even then it was a no brainer. This is one of those things where… I just wish it happened more often. I think it should happen all over the country,” Chef Rathbun said. “This is a major deal for us. We feel like they don’t get enough appreciation and we want to show ours.”
The soldiers were served buffalo guise empanadas and radish slaw as a first course, followed by a slow-roasted half chicken, southern cornbread dressing, green beans and country brown gravy. Dessert was a German chocolate cake with butter pecan ice cream…
Chef Rathbun and special guest Michael Finley spoke to the group before they boarded the bus to the American Airlines Center, where they were greeted by fans and members of the press as they entered the arena and walked down the stairs to their seats. Especially deserving was Pearl Harbor survivor, 96 year-old 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 that were injured in the war… and now we have the whole front row at the Mavs game. It’s been a great 10 years,” said Neal Hawks, season ticket holder and founder of Seats for Soldiers.
Fans held back tears during Jack Ingram’s National Anthem and the 10th Annual Seats for Soldiers video that played during the first quarter break. And after a whirlwind day in Dallas, the entire Mavs team, including GM Donnie Nelson, Head Coach Rick Carlisle, owner Mark Cuban and Neal and Jamie Hawks, met the soldiers on the court for a group picture and to sign autographs.
A special thank you to American Airlines, Abacus, the Hawks Foundation and the entire Dallas Mavericks staff for providing such an incredible experience for these heroes.