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Towson treats soldiers and families to Tiger experience

Eden Turner plays with Towson football's Tungie Coker at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Tungie Coker, left, plays with Eden Turner at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The Towson football team had set up cones on the field of Johnny Unitas Stadium to run a clinic, but Eden Turner didn’t care.

He may not have even reached his second birthday, but Eden had already figured out the game of football. He picked up the first pigskin he could find and took off down the field for a 40-yard scamper before one of the Tigers caught him near midfield.

Eden, his mother Gabriella, and more than 80 members of the National Guard and their families participated in Saturday’s Operation Guardian Tiger Family Fun Day. The attendees were treated to an inside look at Towson Athletics, playing on the court in Tiger Arena with the women’s basketball team, going inside the football locker room to meet head coach Rob Ambrose and some of the team, and finally playing on Minnegan Field in Unitas Stadium.

The day concluded with a barbecue tailgate in the Auburn Pavilion. Mission BBQ of Perry Hall donated sandwiches and chips for the event.

“We are honored to have you here and couldn’t be happier to welcome you into the Towson Family,” said Towson President Maravene Loeschke at the opening of Saturday’s event. Loeschke, who has many veterans in her own family, asked the participants to create an open dialogue with the university about their needs and the needs of veterans and their families like them.

TU football coach Rob Ambrose, right, meets with members of the Maryland National Guard and their children.

Rob Ambrose, right, meets with members of the Maryland National Guard and their children.

“At Towson, we have a deep, passionate commitment to our veterans. We want you to know that we are sending our love and support to all of you. If there is anything else that we can do, let us know. We are committed to helping you in any way you need it.”

Operation Guardian Tiger run by the Veterans Center in cooperation with Towson Athletics. After years of successful Hometown Heroes events at Tiger football games, Patrick Young, coordinator for veteran services, and Stephen Toutsis and Sean Phelan from Towson Athletics sought to grow the university’s outreach to military families.

“The dedication and service of our military veterans has always been an inspiration to me and to many of us throughout the athletic department. This program felt like a natural growth as we strive to serve those who serve us and our country,” said Toutsis, manager of group sales and promotions for Towson Athletics.

This spring, Operation Guardian Tiger adopted two National Guard units, the 200th and 290th MP units from Parkville and Catonsville that have been deployed to Afghanistan.

Throughout the next year, families of the deployed soldiers will have opportunities to attend Towson Athletics games for free. The Veterans Center will also send care packages to the troops.

“It’s hard to describe the stress and complications that go along with living a military lifestyle and having a family at the same time,” said Young, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq. “We want to give the soldiers peace of mind that their families are taken care of at home and we want to give the families a greater sense of community and support. Every little thing we do can make a big difference.”

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