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Monday March 20th

UNC men’s basketball to play aboard aircraft carrier on Veterans Day

	<p>The Carrier Classic game tonight will take place on <span class="caps">USS</span> Carl Vinson at 7 p.m. Photo courtesy of Steven C. Barber.</p>
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The Carrier Classic game tonight will take place on USS Carl Vinson at 7 p.m. Photo courtesy of Steven C. Barber.

This Veterans Day, the UNC men’s basketball team will kick off the season against Michigan State in unfamiliar territory — on an aircraft carrier.

And on Nov. 11, the Tar Heels will have an ally in the captain’s chair.

Captain Bruce H. Lindsey, commanding officer of the USS Carl Vinson, leads almost 5,000 crew members with a UNC basketball jersey draped over his captain’s seat.

His daughter, senior Blair Lindsey, gave him the jersey after UNC won the 2009 NCAA National Championship.

Lindsey said he fought to have the inaugural Carrier Classic played on the USS Carl Vinson.

“When I heard that they were thinking about playing the game onboard an aircraft carrier, I thought it would be an awesome way to show a little recognition of the Carl Vinson crew for all of their sacrifices protecting our great country’s freedoms,” Lindsey said in an email.

“This game will really boost the morale of the crew — especially since we will be deploying again soon afterward for six months.”

Lindsey added the fact that the Tar Heels will be playing on the Carl Vinson is an added bonus. He said he has been a UNC fan since he moved to Reidsville, N.C., during high school.

UNC forward Tyler Zeller said while he’s looking forward to the game, he’s more excited about the opportunity to give back to the men and women who serve the country.

“I’ve gotten emails from military personnel saying that they stay up until 2 a.m. watching our games on tiny screens,” he said.

“I have a lot of respect for them. It’s going to be a great honor to go out and play in front of our military that protect and serve us each day.”

The Carl Vinson gained notoriety in May after it was revealed that it was the vessel used to bury Osama bin Laden at sea.

Los Angeles filmmaker Steven Barber is the official documentary filmmaker for the game.

While he will have footage of the game and interviews with the players, Barber said he wants the crux of his story to be the troops.

“The basketball game is just the backdrop,” he said.

“We need to let everybody know that these guys are busting their butts for us and that they are worth doing extra for.”

Last year, Barber’s documentary “Unbeaten” made the short list of nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, he said.

Barber said Americans are remiss for not honoring Veterans Day the way it should be honored.

“Veterans Day has become a barbecue and a car sale,” he said.

“One in 10 people are in the military. This is about putting the pride back into Veterans Day.”

With six- to eight-month deployments, Lindsey goes long stretches without seeing his family. When Blair Lindsey saw her father in August, it was their first reunion in a year and a half.

But she said abbreviated time with her father is a sacrifice her entire family is willing and proud to make.

“It’s important to remember how lucky America truly is to have citizens who voluntarily serve their country,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter whether they’re in the Navy, Army, Marine Corps or Coast Guard — they’re all fighting for the same reason.”

A temporary basketball court and seating for 7,000 spectators will be built off-site and relocated to the deck of the Carl Vinson on the day of the game, according to the event’s official website.

Michael Jordan and Michigan State alumnus Magic Johnson will be honorary team captains on board the carrier, which will be docked at a naval base in San Diego.

California-based company Morale Entertainment Foundation Inc. developed the concept for the basketball game.

The company organizes entertainment events for the U.S. armed forces.

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