CLEVELAND (NNS) -- Sailors were invited guests at a National Football League pre-season game between the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears Aug. 31.
The Browns organization donated 100 seats in their famous "Dawg Pound" section behind the east end zone of Browns Stadium in honor of Cleveland Navy Week.
Among the sea of white uniforms sitting in section 118 were five Sailors from USS Cleveland (LPD 7), including the commanding officer and command master chief, who traveled from San Diego to participate in Cleveland Navy Week festivities.
In addition to getting free seats at the game, the Cleveland Sailors were invited up to the press booth before the game to meet the Browns' and Bears' television broadcast teams. As part of the meeting, a flag exchange occurred. The Browns received a U.S. flag that had been flown in combat aboard Cleveland, and the crew members received a Cleveland Browns flag in return.
The Sailors were pleased by the event, the photo opportunities and the food.
"This is pretty cool," said Cleveland Blue Jacket Sailor of the Year, Culinary Specialist Seaman Sean Unterdorfer. "I've never been up to the press booth before. The food is great in here."
The Sailors were excited to meet Bears color commentator and legendary football coach Mike Ditka, who greeted them enthusiastically.
"Thank you guys and gals," he said while shaking hands with the Sailors, "for all that you do. This is great! I really appreciate what you do for us."
The Sailors were greeted just as warmly by Browns broadcasters Al Rosen, Brian Brennan, and legendary former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar.
"Hey! The fleet has arrived," joked Kosar. "I feel safer already, and we all know how important protection is to a quarterback."
On hand to greet the Sailors were a number of other notables who were hanging out in the Browns' press area, including Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, and long-time journalist and Navy Veteran Varo Cebaro.
"I'm an old Navy man myself," Cebaro said. "I think it's just great that you guys are here. It reminds me of when I was in the Navy."
After meeting the press, the Cleveland Sailors rejoined their shipmates from Navy Operational Support Center Cleveland and Navy Recruiting District Ohio in the "Dawg Pound" to enjoy the football game. Unfortunately for the hometown fans, the Browns lost the game 20-7. But the Browns gesture of hospitality to them was not lost on those who attended.
"This is only the second NFL game I've ever been to in my life," said Chief Navy Counselor Chad Albright. "The first was in Tokyo, but there's nothing that compares to sitting in the 'Pound' at Browns stadium. This was special."
The special treatment for the Navy was a gift from the Browns in recognition of Cleveland Navy Week. One of 26 such weeks being held throughout the United States this year, Cleveland Navy Week was planned by the Navy Office of Community Outreach (NAVCO), in partnership with Navy Recruiting District Ohio and Navy Operational Support Center Cleveland, as well as other local Navy commands and civilian affiliate organizations. Navy Weeks are designed to increase awareness of the service in areas with traditionally limited exposure to the Navy.
For related news, visit the NAVCO Cleveland Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/navcocleveland/.