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UCLA and Baylor Matched in San Diego's Holiday Bowl

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Players enjoy bowl week activity aboard the USS Boxer

By Jon D. Gaede
BVN Sports

Unique to the annual Holiday Bowl in San Diego, the team luncheon is held aboard a United States Navy carrier. This year’s host was the USS Boxer (LHD 4) the sixth U.S Navy ship to bear the name.

Captain Kevin Flanagan, Commanding Officer of the USS Boxer, welcomed this years teams from UCLA and Baylor University. The ship, nicknamed the ‘Golden Gator’ is supported by a crew of 1,077 and 1,870 troops.

The Holiday Bowl kick-off on Thursday night would temporarily take a back seat to the significance of the day, while many Americans serve in regions of conflict, during Christmas, thousands of miles away.

The World War II version of the Boxer was an Essex Class ‘heavy carrier’ that launched Corsairs, Helldivers and Torpedo Bombers conducting combat operations during the Korean War and Vietnam conflict. Today’s USS Boxer and Holiday Bowl Luncheon host, is a WASP Class Helicopter Carrier that operates Harrier’s, V-22 Osprey & MH 605 aircraft.

Commander Flanagan welcomed the players and coaching staffs to his ship and reminded them of the sailors and troops who work tirelessly as a team, to support the ships mission, in defense of freedom around the world.

During the luncheon, the players enjoyed speeches from Baylor coach Art Briles and UCLA coach Jim Mora. Vice Admiral Tom Capeman, Commander, Naval Surface Forces and Brigadier General Daniel Yoo, Western Recruiting Region, also made presentations.

UCLA running back Melvin Emesibe (Hesperia H.S.) was given a special award in front of his fellow players as he was recognized for emulating unselfish commitment, motivation and teamwork. All attributes of the late Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp who served with distinction during WW II.

The UCLA and Baylor players were escorted on a comprehensive tour, above and below of the magnificent 844 ft. carrier. They jogged up the ramps, climbed into helicopters and took pictures with the crew. All smiles from the Bruins and Bears, on this day.

The experts have posted an over/under number of 80 points for Thursday night. Both UCLA and Baylor possess high-powered offenses and the game promises to be exciting and entertaining for viewers. Regardless, the winners on this day are certainly the players, the Holiday Bowl Committee and the wonderful crew who selflessly serve their country, aboard the USS Boxer.

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