December 17, 2004 Friday
Wounded GIs Get Front-Row Mavs Tickets

BYLINE: BOBBY ROSS JR.; Associated Press Writer

SECTION: SPORTS

LENGTH: 286 words

DATELINE: DALLAS

About 140 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will get a courtside view of the action at a Dallas Mavericks game Saturday night, thanks to season-ticket holders who offered their seats in a show of gratitude.

“It’s a small way for me to show some appreciation for what they’ve done for us,” ticket holder Jim Leslie said.

“I still don’t think it’s enough.”

The soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio will fly to Dallas – on a chartered jet donated by American Airlines – to see the Mavericks play the Atlanta Hawks. They will be treated to free food and drink and have their pictures taken with Mavericks players, dancers and team officials.

Team owner Mark Cuban said in an e-mail: “This is a chance for these servicemen and women to feel the admiration and respect of 20,000 people, reinforcing for them that we as a nation feel grateful for what they have done for us.”

Season-ticket holder Neal Hawks began offering seats to soldiers last season. This year, he approached other season-ticket holders and got 133 tickets worth roughly $150,000, all in the front row.

“Virtually everyone said I could have their tickets,” Hawks said. “I even had a couple season-ticket holders who had already given their tickets away go and get them back.”

Cpl. J.R. Martinez, 21, attended a game last season while recovering from severe burns he suffered when his Humvee hit a land mine in Iraq. He said many of the wounded soldiers are “probably in the depression stage.”

“For them to go and be able to feel that energy, it’s definitely going to help their morale,” he said.

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