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Marlins Tour Navy Destroyer

This week, in honor of Veteran's Day, Billy, the Mermaids, and Gaby Sanchez paid a visit to brand new navy missile destroyer, the USS Jason Dunham.

The ship, which will be commissioned this Saturday, is named for Cpl. Dunham, a marine and baseball fan who gave his life to shield fellow soldiers from a grenade blast. He was the first marine in Operation Iraqi Freedom to win the congressional medal of honor.

Joe Frisaro has the story.

"It was really awesome to walk through there," said Marlins rookie first baseman Gaby Sanchez, a Miami native. "It's a new ship. Some places in there had that new-car smell."

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"We talked to the sailors," Sanchez said. "They said, 'Thanks for coming.' I was like, 'No, thank you. You're the ones risking your lives so I can play sports.'"

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A native New Yorker, Dunham was a baseball fan and he played ball in high school.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Hanging on the wall in the dining area is a display that includes Jason Dunham's baseball jersey, plus his bat and batting gloves. Also on the wall is an autographed jersey of Derek Jeter, Dunham's favorite player.       ---

"What happened with Jason Dunham is unbelievable. How many people would do that? To jump and risk their life to save their platoon," Sanchez said. "I know that his family has to be proud of him for doing that. It's incredible, and it's nice that they were able to name that ship after him."

Honoring veterans is nothing new to the Marlins. It's one thing the team does very well, regardless of which holiday is on the calendar.

In January, the Marlins sent a contingent of players, executives and Mermaids to visit troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, becoming the first Major League baseball team to do so since the start of the war. On a smaller scale, the team honors veterans and active duty military personnel with free admission to Sunday baseball games, among other goodies.

On a more personal note, when my brother was on leave from his tour in Iraq this summer, the Marlins treated us to some free swag and great seats to watch the Fish take on this year's World Series champions. While free tickets and t-shirts is admittedly a small way to thank soldiers for their service, I can say from experience that these gestures have a profound impact on our troops and their families.

Big ups to the Marlins for their support of our military men and women.