Classic organizers want attendees to remember reason for games

USS Yorktown. (Source: Stacy Jacobson/WCIV)

By Stacy Jacobson

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - While fans of college basketball are enjoying a pair of games from the deck of the USS Yorktown, many people in attendance and event organizers are keeping in mind the reason for the event.

Sunday is Veterans Day and the Carrier Classic is dedicated to service members, including Joshua Payne.

"I went to go find the bombs before everyone else went out," Payne said.

Payne spent 12 years in the military before taking medical retirement in 2009. He's visiting Charleston this weekend with the Wounded Warrior Project, and he said he's impressed by a basketball court being built on an aircraft carrier.

Payne said it reminds him of things he and other soldiers would do in the Army.

"We were creative with the things we'd do. We'd play golf out in the sand just for fun, to kind of relax," he said.

About one-third of the people watching the Carrier Classic from the deck of the Yorktown are veterans.

Shelene Smith's son, Matthew, is in a wheelchair. He served in the National Guard for seven years and spent two years in Iraq. She said getting to come to the Classic helps to erase the pain.

"They take all the daily anguish of things we're going through - it washes away," Shelene Smith said.

"There's no greater respect that to visit a legacy-type of historic landmark, to bring up more than 100 wounded warriors to that landmark on Veterans Day weekend to allow them to enjoy a college athletic event," said Dan McCarthy with the Wounded Warrior Project.

Organizers hope the USS Yorktown serves as a fitting backdrop for the Veterans Day weekend event. They said its history from World War II and Vietnam should remind visitors what allows them to enjoy the games.

"(We hope they get a feel for) what sacrifices they're making, risking lives and limbs, so we can do these kinds of things," said Mac Burdette with the Patriots Point Development Authority.

Payne said he needs no reminders.

"This is the reason I did join the Army - patriotism," he said.

Patriots Point officials said the event is expected to raise at least $100,000. All of that money will go to the Wounded Warrior Project.