U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Anthony Erickson got some Army buddies together while stationed in Afghanistan and posed for a snapshot with Old Glory and a blanket made with maroon and gold Minnesota Gopher insignias.
The staff sergeant then urged his dad, Vietnam veteran and Coon Rapids resident Steve Erickson, to enter the photo in a Veterans Day photo contest sponsored by the University of Minnesota.
Turns out, the photo won third place and Steve Erickson and his wife, Phyllis and granddaughters Madison and Reece were invited to attend the Nov. 9 Minnesota versus Penn State football game at TCF Bank Stadium.
But they didn’t just watch the football game, they were among dozens of U.S. military men and women, ROTC members, National Guard and reserve personnel cheering the team through the tunnel and on to the field before kick off.
Also, the photo from Afghanistan was one of 50 photos scrolling across the JumboTron as part of the Gopher’s Veterans Day observations during the game.
“This really should be more about Anthony, not about me,” Erickson said, honoring his son, a heavy equipment operator who was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2013.
The elder Erickson – the Vietnam veteran – served with the U.S. Navy Seabees as Petty Officer third class from December 1965 to July 1969.
“Twenty-seven months in Vietnam, three nine-month stints, then seven or eight months in Okinawa,” Erickson said, describing his military service.
“The game was cold, but fun. The kids had a great time … We’re just looking for Anthony to get back home, then we’ll all be good.”
Sue Austreng is at firstname.lastname@example.org