Don't be alarmed by the influx of uniformed military personnel at Washington-Grizzly Stadium during Saturday's home football game. Be grateful.
It's military appreciation day at the University of Montana's Big Sky Conference matchup against Weber State.
Part of the pre-game show will involve the display of an American flag that stretches the entire length of the football field - a feat that will require the assistance of 250 military personnel and their families.
The flag will remain on the field during the singing of the national anthem by Malmstrom Air Force Base men's ensemble from Great Falls.
The flag is the same one used during last February's Super Bowl and also at this year's opening of Cowboys Stadium, when the Dallas Cowboys took on the New York Giants. The flag left on a truck from San Diego at 3 a.m. Wednesday in order to arrive in time for Saturday's Griz game.
At the completion of the national anthem, two Montana Air National Guard F-15 fighter jets will buzz the stadium at 1,000 feet traveling 400 mph, said Tech. Sgt. Andy English. The pilots, Lt. Col. Shane Sanders and Capt. Benjamin Orsua, both are Iraq combat veterans and native Montanans.
It takes approximately 10 minutes for the two jets to fly from Great Falls to Missoula to perform the flyover, and timing is everything so as not to buzz the stadium before the end of the song, English said. They are scheduled to blast past the stadium at exactly 12:55:33, he said.
Tech. Sgt. Bob Osier will be on the field with a radio, which will hopefully allow the pilots to hear the national anthem in their cockpits and help them more easily gauge the timing of the flyover, English said.
At halftime, the UM ROTC battalion will enroll 15 new students into its program. Also, military service and veterans organizations as well as the governor's office will sign a covenant, agreeing to work together within communities to better assist families and servicemen and women before and during deployment overseas, said Maj. Jason Grider, scholarship and enrollment officer for the UM ROTC program.
Finally, Buck Up for Wounded Warriors, a recently formed nonpartisan nonprofit organization, will be on hand at the game selling "Buck Up" supporter T-shirts and hats. Proceeds will help combat veterans and their families with the support they need to successfully transition back into their communities.