Bruins welcome veterans to practice

BOSTON (WHDH) - Bruins players practiced Wednesday under the watchful gaze of some of the country’s oldest service members – veterans of the Korean War.

“There’s people that have been less appreciated than we are in our public positions that have sacrificed a lot more than we ever will,” said Bruins forward David Backes.

The Bruins treated veterans to a practice viewing, followed by lunch and a meet-and-greet with players.

Bernie Smith came with his 12-year-old great-grandnephew, who’s a hockey player himself. Smith used to play pickup hockey in Boston and says back in the day he was quite the enforcer.

“It’s like football on ice,” he said. “I was a defenseman and I’d whack people.”

Tom Henze came with his old friend and fellow veteran Tom Boyle. The two have been friends for more than 70 years.

The veterans say it’s gratifying to be recognized for serving in what is sometimes called “The Forgotten War.”

“Our particular war is not so recognized and we appreciate it,” said Vartkess Tarbassian.

Army veteran Paul Kim was in the army in the 60s after moving to the U.S. from Korea.

“Without their sacrifice, Korea wouldn’t be the way it is today, so we are so indebted to American soldiers,” Kim said.

Backes spent close to a half hour meeting with veterans.

He says his grandfather, a tail gunner in World War II, gave him an appreciation for what those in service do today and did so many years ago.

“Try to deflect some of the recognition that I get for playing a game to those guys that have sacrificed and put their lives on the line to defend our freedom,” Backes said. “That’s why I wanted to come up here and spend a few minutes with these gentlemen.”

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