Braves get a lesson in parachute packing

Braves get a lesson in parachute packing

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The memorable experience that United States Army Staff Sgt. Adam Keith gained while interacting with Braves players at Fort Bragg on Sunday morning was far different than the unforgettable assignment he was given in 2010, when he was a member of the last United States Army brigade to exit Iraq.

"For our last mission, we actually drove our strikers from Baghdad all the way down to Kuwait," Keith said. "That is an experience I'll never forget."

During his two years (2009-10) in the Middle East, Keith gained a sense of home whenever he was given an opportunity to keep tabs on his beloved Braves, the team he had fervently followed dating back to his childhood in Surfside, S.C. The fandom of the 2009 graduate of Coastal Carolina University dates back to the 1990s.

Thus he felt an enhanced sense of excitement on Sunday morning, when he was assigned to a parachute packing facility to provide information to a group of Braves players and coaches who went there to interact with some troops.

"When I first heard about the game, it was kind of like disbelief, thinking, 'Are they really going to play a real Major League Baseball game at Fort Bragg?'" Keith said. "It's kind of unbelievable they would do something this awesome for the soldiers."

Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino were part of the contingent that got a behind-the-scenes look at how troops repack parachutes after they'd been used in jumps completed by members of the Airborne Units.

Teheran gained a greater appreciation for how heavy the packs are when he strapped one to his back.

"I think it's been a great experience and different than anything we've done before," Teheran said. "It's great to know what these soldiers do for us to save people's lives. Sometimes coming from another country, you don't know why they do it. But coming today for the first time to Fort Bragg, you start to get a better idea of all they do."

Another group of Braves and Marlins players spent a portion of Sunday morning talking to troops from a Special Ops unit. Media members were not invited to this event, so when asked what the session entailed, Braves veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski said, "We're not allowed to tell you. We'd have to kill you."

After visiting the parachute packing facility and the Special Ops troops, players from both teams visited with hospitalized veterans and spent time with military families at one of the base's dining halls.

"This might never happen again," Pierzynski said. "So to be a part of this is special."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.