This is the time of year where giving back takes center stage. On Saturday night, the Dallas Mavericks and many season ticket holders gave more than 100 injured U.S. military veterans a unique gift, court side seats.
Mavericks Fans Donate 'Seats for Soldiers'
More than 100 injured veterans were flown to DFW from San Antonio on Saturday
It's become an annual event here at the American Airlines Center, "Seats for Soldiers" where the Mavericks and American Airlines fly in injured veterans recovering in San Antonio for a fancy meal and some expensive seats. It's a way to give them a break from rehabilitation and to say thank you.
It was the kind of entrance that perhaps only NBA stars are use to receiving, a standing ovation as they made their way court side. On Saturday night that ovation wasn't for a point guard but rather wounded warriors like Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Whittemore.
"Having floor seats like that, never in my life would I have dreamed," Whittemore said. "Now we're here, this is going to be awesome."
After 15 years in the Corps and seven deployments, Whittemore is preparing to medically retire but is grateful to all the support he received Saturday.
"Going out to fancy restaurants, all that other kind of stuff, it's really great to kind of see that people do definitely care and support all of us in our recovery," he said.
That is the point of flying the 120 men and women into Dallas-Fort Worth for the day, to get them away from the hospitals and recovery centers for just a few hours.
"It’s an easy thing to do and it's the right thing to do," said Terdema Ussery, the Mavericks' President & CEO. "It’s a small thing frankly, it’s a small thank you on behalf of the Dallas Mavericks."
In some ways it was a big gesture, as season ticket holders donated $350,000 worth of court side seats.
"We've never had a person say no in all the years we've done this, which speaks again to how we collectively feel, I think all of us in North Texas about what these men and women do for us," Ussery said.
But there were plenty of smaller gestures too, as Gwen Harten Hannah hugged each of the veterans as they walked down the stairs to their seats.
"Words or money can't repay these kids for what they've been through," she said.
But the gestures shown to them on Saturday were more than enough.
"Just really thankful to be have the opportunity to serve my country," said Jim Anderson, a retiring military intelligence officer who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. "It's exhilarating, just sends a thrill through you. Just really amazing."
This idea to give up Seats for Soldiers started with a season ticket holder and it's grown from there.