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US Open Tennis Wrap via the slant from Joe Hunt | including Military Appreciation Day

By Joe Hunt

The US Open is over now and what a great one it was!  

It felt like a new era.  Serena was bid a glorious farewell for a remarkable career, and while Novak must be chomping at the bit, sidelined by protocols, new champions and new personalities are now occupying space in our collective tennis consciousness. 

I am reflecting on September 5th, Labor Day at the US Open, one week ago, which since 2019 has been named in honor of my great uncle, Lt. Joe Hunt.  

The most significant aspect of Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day is the invitations given to gold star families who lost loved ones in the line of duty and to current and former servicemen and servicewomen who have given so much to our country.

In attendance was General Charles Brown and his lovely wife, Charlene, to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the United States Air Force.  

General Brown is an avid tennis enthusiast and he commented that attending the US Open was one of the highlights of his life.  Also in attendance was Vice Admiral Sean Buck, the Superintendent of the US Naval Academy, and Lt. General Steven Gilland, Superintendent of West Point.  These leaders in uniform bring awesome stature, honor and integrity to the grounds.   

The day’s events began at 6:30 a.m. on the floor of the largest tennis stadium in the world.  My son, Taylor, and I had the honor of accompanying General and Mrs. Brown, VADM Buck and military veterans in a tennis clinic in Ashe.

These veterans are grateful people enthusiastically learning our sport.  You could see the joy on their faces as they ran sideline to sideline, up and back, hitting balls, taking only brief moments to gaze high into the rafters to get a sense what it just might feel like to play in front of 23,000 cheering fans.  

We were their fans that day.

Throughout the morning and afternoon, Taylor and I spoke with a Purple Heart recipient, Vietnam War veteran, numerous other service members, and of course the cherished gold star families.  We listened to the heart-wrenching stories of loved ones lost in service.  We applauded for those who had the opportunity to walk down to court and flip the ceremonial Air Force commemorative coin before each match.  This was special.  A number of service members told us this was the best day of their lives.  

At prime time at the Open, just before the Sabalenka-Collins match, General Brown gave an uplifting and inspiring message of service and sacrifice to the audience.  Military families were brought on court to be given ceremonial US Flags in gratitude and honor for what they have given.  The West Point band played the national anthem and there was not a dry eye in the house.  The meaning of this moment was palpable to all who witnessed it.  

Late at night with Alcaraz and Cilic about to play into the wee hours of the morning in the city that never sleeps, we finally tired, but with a deep sense of gratitude and satisfaction.  Without exception the aforementioned guests of honor at this special day felt appreciated for all they have done for us.  

The men and women in uniform are a gift to a grateful nation, and we could not have been more gratified to know that tennis was the vehicle to lift their spirits up. 

To see that Lt. Hunt, was remembered in this context and made a part of this day was overwhelming. Joanne Wallen, the primary organizer who pours her heart into putting the day together, looked at me with tears in her eyes, asking if Lt. Hunt and our beautiful military guests were properly honored.

This, the day’s central purpose, was her only concern.  

Mission accomplished Jo!   

I looked up to the rafters of Ashe myself and whispered, “See Uncle Joe.  Look at what you have done.”  

I felt him smiling back.

Editors Note • photos from (some By) Joe Hunt. We are so proud of Joe. He has done an old champion proud ! As well as honoring all branches of the Military.• He has kept his Grand Uncle The great Joseph Raphael Hunt relevant by the sheer will power and persistence of “Seattle JOE” Bravo To both. We met over a small trophy and are team Joe forever. (LJ) 🎾