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(Enlarge) Soldiers and Airmen from the Defense Information School join local first responders and veterans to hold the National 9/11 Flag during the National Anthem at Johnny Unitas Stadium for Towson University's "Hometown Heroes Day." More than a dozen service members, including Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein, participated in the events prior to Towson's football game versus William and Mary. The Tigers won 20-17. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

Saturday afternoon, the Towson University Tigers honored local first responders, veterans and active-duty service members with the "Hometown Heroes Day."

Among the military members featured at the event were more than a dozen Soldiers and Airmen from the Defense Information School.

Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein also helped kick off Towson's home opener by performing the coin toss midfield at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

"It's a great opportunity," Rothstein said. "It is spectacular for these service members."

Shortly before the Division I Colonial Athletic Association matchup between Towson and the William and Mary Tribe, more than a dozen Fort Meade service members joined firefighters, police officers and veterans from surrounding areas to carry the National 9/11 Flag onto the field for the National Anthem.

Eleven years ago, the 30-foot American flag was found tattered in the wreckage of the Twin Towers following the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. After being in storage for several years, the flag made its way around the country for a two-year tour to all 50 states. Throughout the tour, the flag was patched up state-by-state.

"It was awesome to hear all the history connected to the flag," Airman 1st Class Jenna Sarvinski said. "It's pretty awesome to be a part of that."

As the flag was spread across the tiger emblem at midfield, Master. Sgt. Marva Lewis of the U.S. Army Field Band performed the National Anthem for the crowd of 8,309 football fans.

Rothstein then headed midfield, where he participated in his second coin toss. Having experienced the task at a Towson game last year, he was fully prepared for the challenge.

"It's all about keeping the thumb strong," he said. "If there is good balance in the coin, the thumb is strong -- let it fly."

After all the pregame events, service members returned to their front row seats to watch the 20-17 Towson victory. Rothstein said the event was a good chance for the young service members from DINFOS to become part of the community, as well as an opportunity for him to meet with the military's younger generation.

"I love letting our guard down a little bit and talking," he said. "This is a great environment where I can do that with the young service members."

Sarvinski, who is in the combat correspondence course, said events such as Saturday's is a good way for service members to interact with people outside Fort Meade.

"It's great to have the opportunity to be part of the community," she said. "It's nice to get involved in events like this. ... It's a great experience."

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