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'Thank you for serving, enjoy the game.'

“Ice,” the official game ball for the Milwaukee Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
SrA Jefferson Harkleroad presented “Ice” to the Bucks team captain Monta Ellis at center court as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program Wed., April 3, 2013 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee.  
Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, returned from a deployment in Afghanistan and was recognized by the crowd prior to the game. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

“Ice,” the official game ball for the Milwaukee Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. SrA Jefferson Harkleroad presented “Ice” to the Bucks team captain Monta Ellis at center court as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program Wed., April 3, 2013 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, returned from a deployment in Afghanistan and was recognized by the crowd prior to the game. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, stands courtside with Michael Steger of Waukesha Metal and Ryan Hooser of the Milwaukee Bucks, moments before the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wed., April 3, 2013.
Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was recognized at center court prior to the game as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, stands courtside with Michael Steger of Waukesha Metal and Ryan Hooser of the Milwaukee Bucks, moments before the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wed., April 3, 2013. Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was recognized at center court prior to the game as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad holds the official game ball for the Milwaukee Bucks’ game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013.
Harkleroad, a member of Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing who recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, presented the game ball to the Bucks team captain, NAME, at center court as part of the Bucks’ “Hardwood Homecoming” program.  (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad holds the official game ball for the Milwaukee Bucks’ game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013. Harkleroad, a member of Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing who recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, presented the game ball to the Bucks team captain, NAME, at center court as part of the Bucks’ “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad is all smiles at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013.  
Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, was honored by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad is all smiles at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013. Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, was honored by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Milwaukee Bucks point guard and team captain Monta Ellis autographs a souvenir basketball for Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad Wed., April 3, 2013 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was recognized prior to the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Milwaukee Bucks point guard and team captain Monta Ellis autographs a souvenir basketball for Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad Wed., April 3, 2013 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was recognized prior to the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, shakes hands with an NBA referee at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013. 
Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was recognized prior to the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, shakes hands with an NBA referee at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013. Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was recognized prior to the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad poses for photographers with Minnesota Timberwolves team captain Jose Barea, Michael Steger of Waukesha Metal Products and Milwaukee Bucks team captain Monta Ellis at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad poses for photographers with Minnesota Timberwolves team captain Jose Barea, Michael Steger of Waukesha Metal Products and Milwaukee Bucks team captain Monta Ellis at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

128th Air Refueling Wing Airman, Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, waves to crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013.  
Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was honored by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program and presented the official game ball the team captains prior to the start of the game. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

128th Air Refueling Wing Airman, Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, waves to crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee Wed., April 3, 2013. Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was honored by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program and presented the official game ball the team captains prior to the start of the game. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Michael Steger of Waukesha Metal hands an autographed souvenir basketball to Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad following a recognition ceremony at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wed., April 3, 2013.
Harkleroad, an electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron of Milwaukee's 128th Air Refueling Wing, recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan and was recognized prior to the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Michael Steger of Waukesha Metal hands an autographed souvenir basketball to Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad following a recognition ceremony at center court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wed., April 3, 2013. Harkleroad, an electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron of Milwaukee's 128th Air Refueling Wing, recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan and was recognized prior to the Bucks game against the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the “Hardwood Homecoming” program. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, stands courtside at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee with his father, Senior Master Sgt. Phil Harkleroad, Wed., April 3, 2013.
Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was honored by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program and presented the official game ball the team captains prior to the start of the game.  (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)
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Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, stands courtside at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee with his father, Senior Master Sgt. Phil Harkleroad, Wed., April 3, 2013. Harkleroad, who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, was honored by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program and presented the official game ball the team captains prior to the start of the game. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin / Released)

Official Air Force portrait of Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron of Milwaukee's 128th Air Refueling Wing.  Harkleroad was recognized by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program prior to the Bucks’ game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves Wed., April 3, 2013 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
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Official Air Force portrait of Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad, an electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron of Milwaukee's 128th Air Refueling Wing. Harkleroad was recognized by the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal as part of their “Hardwood Homecoming” program prior to the Bucks’ game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves Wed., April 3, 2013 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Milwaukee -- The sign on the wall backstage at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, home to the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, was explicit and unambiguous: "No hard soled shoes allowed on the court." Security staff and ushers lining the perimeter of the basketball court kept a close eye on anyone who got too close to the hallowed hardwood. However in this instance an exception to the rule was permitted.

Clad in his "multi-cam" tan and green camouflage uniform and wearing his hard-soled combat boots, Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad strode out to center court and handed the official game ball to Milwaukee Bucks team captain, point guard Monta Ellis.

Harkleroad, an Air Force electrician with Milwaukee's 128th Air Refueling Wing's Civil Engineering Squadron, was selected for the event by the Bucks and their corporate partner Waukesha Metal Products as part of their "Hardwood Homecoming" program. The program recognizes military members on the court during a pre-game ceremony and provides them tickets to the game. Harkleroad recently returned home from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan where he was responsible for structural construction and maintenance projects at Bagram Airfield.

"You want to keep these guys in the forefront, to know that they're being supported," said WMP's Michael Steger.

John F. Steinmiller, Milwaukee Bucks Vice President of Business Operations, echoed Steger's sentiment. "It's very important because they [disrupt] their lives, they leave their families to serve us, protecting our freedoms," he said.

Just after Harkleroad handed Ellis the game ball, he and Steger shook hands with the basketball players and referees at the center of the basketball court. As the group exchanged pleasantries, the public address announcer' s voice boomed over the arena's speakers, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Milwaukee Bucks and Waukesha Metal Products are joining forces to honor and recognize the brave men and women who serve... the salute continues tonight when the Bucks honor Wisconsin National Guardsman, Senior Airman Jefferson Harkleroad. An Air Force electrician serving in the Civil Engineering Squadron at Milwaukee's 128th Air Refueling Wing, Harkleroad recently deployed to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan..."

During the ceremony Ellis and Barea signed a pair of special souvenir basketballs for Harkleroad and Steger. The athletes and referees also conveyed their appreciation for the military to the Airman. "They said, 'Thanks for doing what you do, for serving, and enjoy the game,'" Harkleroad said.

As two men wearing basketball uniforms showed respect to one man wearing a military uniform, the crowd rose to their feet and gave the 25-year-old Airman a respectful round of applause. Harkleroad, the center of attention, hardly had time to hear the cheers of gratitude and absorb the enormity of it all.

"I didn't see anything or hear anything," he said as he blushed with pride.