SAN DIEGO - Amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) hosted the 34th Annual Navy/Marine Corps Luncheon Dec. 26, honoring both teams competing in this year's Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
This year's bowl teams are the University of California Golden Bears and the University of Texas Longhorns football teams.
Nearly 1,000 players, coaching staff members and Boxer Sailors mingled in the ship's hangar bay for the event.
The program kicked off with a Battle of the Bands between the two universities' respective marching bands on pier 13 at Naval Base San Diego where Boxer is moored. The attendants then moved into the ship's hangar bay for a more solemn opening ceremony, including a live reenactment of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, the parading of colors by Boxer's Color Guard, and the national anthem performed by Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Marqueta Rodgers who will also sing the anthem at the Holiday Bowl game.
While the luncheon honored both teams, attendees also took time to recognize the third team present: the Navy/Marine Corps team.
"I launched from this very ship into Afghanistan," said Bridgepoint Education Senior Vice President of Strategy Doug Abts, referring to his days as a Navy SEAL. "I feel very lucky to have played on that team."
"We feel like you guys give us the freedom to play football," agreed Longhorn linebacker Keenan Robinson, a senior at the University of Texas. "We play this game to honor you guys."
The luncheon saw the continuation of another Holiday Bowl tradition as two Boxer Sailors were selected by the teams' coaches to serve as honorary team captains, sitting with their teams at the game and even participating in the game's opening coin toss. Golden Bears coach Jeff Tedford selected California native Machinist Mate 3rd Class Dustin Caldwell, while native Texan Quartermaster 2nd Class Darren Griggs will join Longhorns coach Mack Brown and his crew.
"I've been a fan since I was little," Caldwell said. "It'll be great being on the sidelines and meeting all the players."
The game is set to kick off at 5p.m. Dec. 28 at Qualcomm Stadium.