The Buffalo Sabres opened their NHL season Thursday night at KeyBank Center against the Montreal Canadiens.
One of the 19,070 fans at the game was 94-year-old Marian Morreale, whose inspirational story was shared Thursday by Lou Michel of The Buffalo News.
Morreale is a World War II veteran whose left leg was amputated a year ago. But for the past three months she has practiced standing to get ready for the Sabres’ opening night.
That hard work was on full display Thursday as Morreale, with the help of her walker, stood up from her wheelchair for the national anthem.
The idea came from her son Vincent Morreale Jr., a 23-year Sabres season ticketholder. He originally wanted her to stand for the 2016 opener after Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem, but she lacked the strength at the time.
On Thursday, she was ready. “I won’t be able to put my arm across my heart,” she explained beforehand. “I’m on one leg, and I have to hang on to my walker.”
Morreale does not have a prosthetic limb.
— Sully 🇺🇸 (@TimMSullivanJr) October 5, 2017
Addressing the protests started by Kaepernick, she told Michel, “I think for these young athletes and the salaries they make, they should stand for the national anthem.”
“But I don’t think our president should use that word, SOB,” said Morreale, a reference to President Donald Trump’s recent comments during a speech: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say: ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now’?”
The Coast Guard veteran said she does not hold hard feelings against those who kneel during the national anthem, but she believes the anthem is too sacred to become a forum for political statements.
Morreale told Michel that if she could address the NFL protesters, she would “hold their hand and say, ‘Be a man and stand, and forgive the president.’ But I don’t blame them for being mad.”
The Sabres have a rich history of honoring military personnel. “When we have our national anthem, we always have a member of the armed forces with our flag bearers right on the ice,” said Chris Bandura, the team’s vice president of media relations. “It has been a tradition for us for years.”
— Tim Wenger (@TimWBEN) October 5, 2017
Morreale joined the Coast Guard at 20 years old. “You learn discipline, you learn to take orders with a smile and you learn who to keep company with. People judge who you are by your associates,” she said. “I tell my grandkids that the Coast Guard ‘grew me up.’”
Morreale and her late husband, Vincent Sr., who served in the Army during World War II, raised four children. Her husband died in 2010 at the age of 88.
Her daughter, Joan Brechtel, told Michel that Morreale sometimes cries during the national anthem.
On Thursday, however, she smiled.
Shortly after Morreale stood for the anthem, her family took her home.
“She doesn’t have enough energy to stay,” Brechtel said. “She is 94.”
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.