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Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force watch the San Francisco 49ers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from field level during the San Francisco 49ers Salute to Fleet Week football game, Oct. 9, 2011. San Francisco Fleet Week is an annual event where the Navy-Marine Corps team connects with citizens of the San Francisco Bay Area to showcase its humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities.

Photo by Cpl. Salvador R. Moreno

49ers honor Marines, sailors in San Francisco Fleet Week

11 Oct 2011 | Cpl. Salvador R. Moreno

Lance Cpl. Stephen Lewis has always been a San Francisco 49er fan and was raised wearing scarlet and gold.

“I’ve been a Niners fan since the day I was born,” said the Santa Rosa, Calif., native. “I was born on the day they won the Super Bowl in 1990.”

When the 49ers opened their gates to Candlestick Park Oct. 9, they welcomed hundreds of service members to watch the home team cut down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-3.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Merchison, an airframes mechanic with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364. “The fact that they gave us tickets lets us know how much the people of San Francisco appreciate us. It was a great feeling knowing what you are doing isn’t unnoticed.”

For Lewis, the game wasn’t just another San Francisco Fleet Week event Marines were privileged to see. He said it was the chance of a lifetime getting to see his childhood heroes in action in some of the best seats in the house.

“It’s awesome being able to come down here, be able to sit pretty much on the field and watch the Niners win a game,” said Lewis, who serves as a military policeman with Combat Logistics Regiment 17, a Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., -based unit. “The last time I heard of a game that was this lopsided was the day I was born during the ‘90 Super Bowl [when they beat the Denver Broncos 55-10].”

Hundreds of service members filled the stands, but Lewis and nine other lucky service members received Red Zone seats just behind the northern end zone.

“My family has season tickets up near the 50-yard line, but these are the best I have ever had, “ he said.

Though the game didn’t display much of a competition, it featured some live performances by the 1st Marine Division Band and Airman 1st Class Megan Hokaj, a vocalist with the Air Force Band of the Golden West, during the halftime tribute to the nations forces.

Fans all across the stadium stood and thanked service members for their service, and asked to take photos with them throughout the game.

While the service members enjoyed the halftime show, young men and women lined up on the field and swore an oath of enlistment to serve in the Marine Corps and Navy.

Directly after swearing in, more than 100 of the future Marines and sailors brought out a field-sized American flag during Hokaj’s “God Bless the USA” performance.

“This was definitely the icing on the cake for Fleet Week,” Lewis said. “The Niners really hooked it up giving us all these tickets and letting us come enjoy this game. We really enjoyed it. The city of San Francisco has been great. Everybody has been happy to see us and welcome us.”