MINNEAPOLIS -- Charisse Stickney has spent nearly all of her adult life serving her country. The 37-year-old mom of 2 1/2-year-old twins has spent the last 19 years as a member of the Minnesota Air National Guard. Currently a senior master sergeant at National Guard headquarters, Stickney helps to send members of the National Guard to Iraq and other places across the world.
"Most of my job consists of getting the folks there and back," Stickney said. "I help take care of their families, and make sure before they leave that they have everything taken care of at home and at work." And on Friday night, Stickney got the opportunity to represent all the men and women she's helped deploy overseas by throwing out the first pitch before the Twins-Indians game at the Metrodome. It was part of Major League Baseball's Welcome Back Veterans initiative in support of returning American veterans. As part of the initiative, all MLB teams will wear specially designed "Stars & Stripes" caps and use similar bases over the July 4th weekend that will be auctioned off to benefit the Welcome Back Veterans Fund. "I'm very honored to represent all of our service men and women that are in Iraq right now and that I serve next to every day, who have just come back or are leaving now," Stickney said. "It's a hard job that we do. Our guys, they volunteer to go over there and they don't always get a good reception from people. So whenever an organization or a team does something like this, it gives us goose bumps. It makes you feel like what you are doing is worthwhile." Joining Stickney on the field for her first pitch was her husband, David, a 21-year veteran of the Air National Guard; her father, Dwayne Kamp, a 35-year veteran of the Army National Guard; and her twins, son Cade and daughter Maesa. Stickney's first pitch kicked off what will be a weekend long celebration at the Metrodome to honor those who have served or currently serve in the military. On Saturday, the Twins will host their sixth annual "Armed Services Appreciation Day." To honor those who have served their country, the Twins have provided four free tickets to all current and former military members and their families for Saturday's game. The club will also host a pregame ceremony that will include a live video link from Iraq, tribute to Vietnam veterans and a "kids starting lineup" that features children of military members who are currently deployed. During the game, Twins players will don caps honoring the five branches of the U.S. armed forces. Patrick Klinger, the Twins' vice president of marketing, said that the event is one that the club looks forward to every year. "I think there has always been a deep connection between baseball and the armed services and we've just tried to continue that here," Klinger said. "Personally, for many of us in the organization, it's a labor of love. I think any chance we have to remember the veterans and current military members, what they did and the sacrifices they've made, we look forward to the opportunity to do that."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.