Seats for Soldiers 2017
Check out a recap of Seats for Soldiers Night, where season ticket holders give up their courtside seats to wounded military and veterans!
DALLAS – Since he’s a native of Dallas, Claymore Kwaramba expressed great joy in being one of the wounded service members chosen to participate in the Dallas Mavericks’ 13th annual Seats For Soldiers night.
The event, hosted by the Mavs, American Airlines and Nick & Sam’s, allowed over 150 wounded service members from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to join reserve troops in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and sit courtside at the December 4 game between the Mavs and Denver Nuggets. American Airlines provided round-trip charter transportation for the wounded service members from San Antonio to Dallas, and Nick & Sam’s provided a delicious four-course pre-game meal.
Meanwhile, Mavs season-ticket holders graciously gave up their courtside seats – valued at over $350,000 – so the soldiers could enjoy a grand night out on the town.
And as an added bonus, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, sat courtside amongst the troops and took photos with them at halftime.
“It’s truly, truly a blessing for everything that the Mavericks do on behalf of all the troops, especially the wounded warriors,” Kwaramba said. “Just for one day to be able to just go out and experience NBA basketball right at courtside, you don’t get any better than this.”
“That was truly, truly appreciated and God bless the Mavericks for that.”
The Seats For Soldiers concept is the brainchild of season-ticket holder Neal Hawks, who encouraged other courtside season-ticket holders to donate their seats to the soldiers.
“Everybody wanted to get involved,” said Don Knobler, who has donated his courtside seats for the past seven years. “Normally you wouldn’t want to give up your front row seats, but for the people that fight and work for our country, the least we can do is give them our seats for one game.”
“We’re delighted to do it and they enjoy it.”
Soldier Robert Rupar said the Seats For Soldiers event is at the top of the soldiers’ to-do list.
“They plan this thing out months ahead and they actually fight each other almost,” Rupar said. “They’re fighting wars, and they’ll come here and they’re fighting to get on this trip to go (to Dallas).”
Israel Del Toro, who was severely injured in Afghanistan in December of 2005, came to his first Seats For Soldiers event in 2006 and has enjoyed every minute of it.
“I went until 2008, because by that time I started getting stronger and I started doing other things,” Del Toro said. “This year American Airlines and the Dallas Mavericks asked me to come back, go to the game and talk to these guys and share my experiences.”
American Airlines pilots and flight attendants eagerly volunteered their time to transport the wounded service members from and back to San Antonio.
“One thing that’s most important about doing this for the soldiers is it’s our gift back,” American Airlines captain/pilot Steven Holmstrom said. “Their gift to us is incalculable, so this is just a small something we can do to give back to them.”
“The experiences we get out of serving these folks last a lifetime.”
Holmstrom just finished his third Seats For Soldiers tour, while flight attendants Rosanna Dillow-Swacker and Debbie Campbell were finishing their first.
“My husband is a captain in the Navy and I’m used to telling the guys, when we would land state-side from the war, to never forget that they are what’s good and right about our country,” Dillow-Swacker said. “They inspire all of us to become better people.”
“I’m so honored to be a part of this,” she said. “I know the sacrifices that these men and women have made for their country and what their families have gone through, and I’m just in awe to be able to do this for them.”
Upon arrival at DFW Airport, the plane with the wounded services members was honored with a prestigious water cannon salute. From there, they went to Nick & Sam’s for a delectable pre-game meal.
“I’m just giving back,” said Samir Dhurandhar, the corporate executive chef and partner of Nick & Sam’s. “I don’t get an opportunity to give back a lot, especially for the troops, so this is the least I can do for them.”
One of the highlights for the wounded service members occurred during a timeout of the Nuggets-Mavs game when the sellout crowd gave them a thunderous standing ovation.
“Some moments are just hard to describe in words, and that was just one of those moments,” Kwaramba said. “I was speechless, and I was looking around at some of my friends and I could just see guys getting teary-eyed.”
After the game the Mavs players, coaches and proprietor Mark Cuban signed autographs and took pictures with the wounded service members. It was an emotional scene.
On observing the special elaborate event, Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said: “Something like this keeps you humble. You’ve got people out here that sacrifice a lot – including limbs.”
“It makes you appreciate the little things.”
The troops thanked all of those who made this magical night happen.
“Everyone was wonderful, the fans were great, they hosted us well, great hospitality and they gave us first-class treatment,” Kwaramba said. “It’s not every day you get courtside tickets from people who were just willing to honor what we do in serving our country, so it’s a blessing.”