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Fans can say "thank you" with donations Saturday to Wounded Warrior Project


By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Soldiers and Marine that Tennessee Tech fans will meet Saturday night in Eblen Center have at least three things in common; All are from the Upper Cumberland, all will be attending their first Golden Eagle basketball games, and all three were wounded in action.

It’s Military Appreciation Night Saturday when Tennessee Tech hosts Morehead State in an Ohio Valley Conference doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m.

An annual feature of the event is presenting the families of the Service members who have been selected by the Wounded Warrior Project as recipients of trips to the OVC Basketball Tournament as guests of the league’s schools.

Tech’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will be in the stands during each game to collect donations to fund the trips for all three families to the tournament.  Fans will have an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ by giving.

U.S. Army Spc. Jason Smith, Army Staff Sgt. Scott Botts, and Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Walters have each fought overseas for America’s freedom, and received honors for their service during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm.

As part of the Ohio Valley Conference's "Hoops for Heroes" initiative, all three warriors and their families will attend the OVC Basketball Tournament in Nashville, March 5-8, with their expenses provided from fund-raising efforts by Tech's student-athletes.

The mission of the SAAC representatives will be to collect donations from TTU fans to support the trips.

Originally from Byrdstown, Tenn., Smith was injured in Iraq in 2004. He and his wife, Brandy, now live in Monterey.

Walters was born in Nashville and currently lives in Sparta with his wife Angela and sons Landon, Bryce and Brycen. He was injured in Afghanistan in 2005.

After serving 18 years and three months with the Marines, Botts is retired after being injured in Iraq in 2005. He lives in Oneida, Tenn., with his wife Theresa.

Tech fans will have the chance to salute those three troops, who will receive family trips to the OVC Tournament from Tech's SAAC efforts through the OVC's association with the Wounded Warrior Project. The program was started three years ago. Tech's fund-raising has gone to Army Cpl. Eric Frazier in 2011 and Army Sgt. Kelly Deming in 2012. Last year, SAAC’s efforts expanded to two recipients in Army Spc. Thomas Kelley and Marine Cpl. Mark Roop.

Fans will be asked to give generously to support this effort when the student-athletes make their way through the arena Saturday evening.

All current and retired members of the U.S. military can receive free tickets to the game, as well as persons working in the public safety sector, by showing ID.

For additional information on the game or the "Hoops for Heroes" project, please call (931) 372-3940 or visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center. The doubleheader begins with the women's game tipoff at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men's contest at 7:30 p.m.

Fans wishing to make donations to the SAAC fund-raising efforts for the "Hoops for Heroes" program but are not able to attend the games Saturday may contact the Athletics Ticket Office for information.