Dozens of American soldiers stationed in South Korea enjoyed a few seconds in the Super Bowl spotlight when they were featured in a live shot during the national anthem.
The camera zoomed in on about 100 members of the 2nd Infantry Division and other units as Gladys Knight belted out a powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“It was an absolute honor to represent the country,” said Maj. Jason Harrington, a 36-year-old Patriots fan from Abington, Mass. “That three to five seconds that we had on national TV is special because it really highlights the efforts, the sacrifice … all those key buzzwords. It goes a long way.”
The Super Bowl traditionally honors the military, but it was the first time the 2nd ID appeared in the brief live shot before kickoff. The New England Patriots went on to beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.
Pvt. Searcy Storey, 22, who later put a Patriots shirt on over his fatigues, said it helped him feel less homesick since it was the first time he wasn’t able to watch the Super Bowl with his family near Fort Worth, Texas.
“It felt rewarding. It made me feel better about being away from my family,” he said.
Due to the time difference, the troops gathered before dawn on Monday to appear in the live satellite feed from the 2nd ID headquarters building on Camp Humphreys, a sprawling Army garrison south of Seoul. Many said they were motivated by the chance to be on TV as well as an offer of a day off in exchange for showing up.
A few South Korean soldiers also joined the crowd to represent the fact that 2nd ID is a combined division that includes members from the allied nation.
Pfc. Dionne Crawford, 19, of Wilson, N.C., was excited her family would see her on TV. “My brother told me to root for the Patriots,” she said before the game.
Pfc. Tom Johansen, 28, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was hoping the Rams would win since “they’re the underdogs” in the game.
Division commander Maj. Gen. Scott McKean also joked with sportscasters in an interview during pre-game coverage on CBS. The two-star asked commentator Nate Burleson if the San Francisco 49ers would be able to compete next year with the Rams. Then he added a warning.
“Nate, before you answer that, remember we got lots of tanks and helicopters over here so I just want to make sure you take that into your consideration,” he said, surrounded by soldiers, including a few wearing fan gear.
“Well, they’re going to win the Super Bowl since you put it like that,” Burleson responded.
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