On Jan. 23, Brett Chase sent out an emotional post, like he commonly does this time of year, in remembrance of his late father.
Staff Sgt. Lance Chase was killed in action in Iraq, in 2006, when Brett was 11-years-old.
“Eight years ago today you've been gone,” Brett wrote, in part, on Instagram, attaching a picture of his father. “In that time I've gone from a little 11 year old to a grown college student. Definitely been tough … love and miss you. Gone but not forgotten.”
Over the next couple days, that touching tribute reached the Thunder brass. And, with Military Appreciation Night set for Monday against the Atlanta Hawks, the timing worked out perfectly.
Thunder management reached out to Brett, a current OU student, through social media and invited him to the game.
“I was really blown away by it,” he said.
Brett's first call was to his mother. His next was to his grandfather, Mike, the father of Lance.
“He said he wanted to buy tickets and come, but I told him I planned on asking him already,” Brett said.
So there the two sat on Monday night, in a pair of seats three rows up from the court, watching the Thunder's thrilling 111-109 victory over the Hawks.
It served as a perfect example of what the Thunder want this annual night to represent. Two locals, both directly affected by the heartache of war, given a night to honor their father, their son and the others who serve this country.
“My brother was in the military for 20 years, so I understand the role that they play,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It's an honor for us to have them here, and we support them here. They protect our country night in and night out.”
More than 1,000 Thunder season ticket holders gave up their spot to military personnel on Monday, including the two seats that Brett and Mike occupied.
“I wouldn't be surprised if one day in the future all of our season ticket holders give it up for a game,” Brooks said. “The people here are so generous.”
Throughout the night, there were different tributes and ceremonies to honor those fallen and those who have served, including a touching national anthem where the crowd, together, sang to the troops.
And through it all, Mike and Brett, grandfather and grandson, soaked it all in.
“It's great to be here, seeing all the military things they are doing, it's kind of moving,” Brett said. “It means a lot.”
“It was real special,” Mike said.
A special tribute to Lance and those like him.
“There's been tough times,” Brett said of losing his father. “Like graduating high school, stuff like that. Getting into college. It's been tough, but we get through it with family and nights like tonight.”