Carrying the flag

U.S. Air Force Airmen hold a United States flag during the presentation of the colors at the Carolina Panthers Salute to Service game at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 16, 2014. The colors were presented by service members from all five branches of the military. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Airmen hold a United States flag during the presentation of the colors at the Carolina Panthers Salute to Service game at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 16, 2014. The colors were presented by service members from all five branches of the military. (Courtesy photo)

Service members run onto the field before the start of the game at the Carolina Panthers Salute to Service game at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 16, 2014. Service members from all five branches of the military ran onto the field with the Panthers before the start of the game. (Courtesy photo)

Service members run onto the field before the start of the game at the Carolina Panthers Salute to Service game at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 16, 2014. Service members from all five branches of the military ran onto the field with the Panthers before the start of the game. (Courtesy photo)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Imagine more than 73,000 people cheering at the top of their lungs, clapping and whistling as five blocks of red, white, and blue are stretched across a pristine field by men and women dressed in their best.

Then silence as the Parris Island Marine Band, assigned aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, plays The Star Spangled Banner.

The haunting melody echoes through the stadium; elation erupts from the stands as the final notes are played and a C-130 Hercules assigned to the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard, soars overhead. Old Glory is folded, put in storage for another day.

The men and women who carried it return to anonymity, carrying only the memories of the moment.

Approximately 30 Team Shaw Airmen, myself included, were given the privilege of carrying our nation's colors onto the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Carolina Panthers Salute to Service game versus the Atlanta Falcons, Nov. 16.

For the majority of us, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. A chance for us to take the field, not as athletes, but as warriors.

The crowd may not have known our names, but for a few minutes, their cheers were for us; their eyes were on us.

For service members who have given time, energy, and even blood in support of operations around the globe, moments like carrying the flag and hearing a crowd of grateful citizens cheer for them holds special significance.

These moments are crucial to creating bonds between the public and the Department of Defense. To show the public who we are, and what we do. Even during a simple flyover, the presentation of the colors, or the Marine Corps Silent Drill team demonstration, we build morale in our service members and begin a dialogue that fosters trust between the public and the services.

A renewed sense of patriotism was pumped into my heart because of that event, being on the field for five minutes, and carrying the flag in front of thousands of people.

Seeing and hearing the thanks that were given by the people of our nation boosted my morale. Moments like this make me proud to wear our uniform, proud to be part of the one percent of Americans who serve.