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Rays to salute military at spring opener

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-The Tampa Bay Rays will open their sixth season at Charlotte Sports Park with a special tribute to active and retired servicemen and women when they host the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, February 28. Game time is 1:05 p.m. 

The spring season will officially open with the delivery of the American Flag and game ball by the U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Team. The Para-Commandos will perform a precision free-fall demonstration, landing in Charlotte Sports Park. The Officer in charge of the jump team, Army Sergeant First Class Kyle Margelofsky, will throw out the first ceremonial pitch. He has deployed 10 times, including six trips to Iraq and four to Afghanistan, and has been awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, the Bronze Star with Valor and the Purple Heart. 

Additionally, the Rays have partnered with Charlotte County's Veteran Services Division to invite 300 of the area's veterans as special guests for the spring opener. The mission of Charlotte County Veteran Services is to provide services and support to the citizens of the County who are veterans of military service, their families, dependents and/or survivors and like persons residing in Charlotte County. 

The Rays will also be offering a special military discount for the opener. Active or retired personnel showing a military ID can purchase up to four half-price general admission seats at the box office on the day of the game.

"Charlotte County is excited to welcome back the Tampa Bay Rays and we are looking forward to Opening Day," said Charlotte County Deputy County/Administrator Kelly Shoemaker. "Charlotte County is home to many veterans and military families and we are thankful for the Rays support and recognition of their service."

The Para-Commandos will be jumping from an altitude of 12,500 feet above the ground, freefalling approximately two miles and reaching speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour while wearing smoke canisters on their feet to make them visible to fans below. During their freefall, the members of the team will maneuver their bodies like an aircraft to create formations in the sky. When the jumpers approach an altitude of 4,000 feet, they will break their formation and glide in different directions, opening their parachutes approximately 2,500 feet above the ground. Once open, the members will steer their parachutes and land one behind the other with precision accuracy in the landing area on the Charlotte Sports Park field.

The Para-Commandos are all active duty military or Department of Defense civilians assigned to the Special Operations Command. Most are combat veterans and have a Special Operations background. Many served with the U.S. Army Special Forces, commonly known as the elite Green Berets. Others served with U.S. Army Rangers, the world's premier light infantry fighting force. The U.S. Air Force is well represented with specialized combat controllers, para-rescue men and combat air crewmen. The U.S. Navy is represented by U.S. Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combat Crewmen, and the U.S. Marine Corps is represented by Special Operations Marines.

These men and women all have full-time jobs at the Special Operations Command Headquarters, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. They volunteer to serve as Para-Commandos as an additional duty.

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