NEWARK, N.J. — Kyle Palmieri has made it a ritual each season to shine the spotlight on active and retired military veterans who sacrifice so much in the line of duty.
The New Jersey Devils forward again will be front and center for that cause when the Devils host Military Appreciation Night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Prudential Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN, MSG+, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).
“I think you see how generous and appreciative people are on these days and these special nights,” Palmieri said. “You hope that it eventually gets to the point where people are going out of their way to thank veterans every day, and not just the week of Veterans Day in the United States or Remembrance Day in Canada and show them the support they deserve with the sacrifices they’ve made for us.”
The Devils will honor active and retired service members throughout the game, including the New Jersey Warriors ice hockey program, an area team of disabled veterans who compete in conjunction with USA Hockey and the Devils.
Honoring the military has been part of Palmieri’s life for a long time. His older sister, Taylor Palmieri, and his brother-in-law, Stephen Ficchi, each have served for many years. Taylor is a member of the Air National Guard. Ficchi, who is married to Palmieri’s sister Tahrin, is a United States Army Ranger.
“Stephen was in Mississippi for a bit before recently returning home with my sister (Tahrin) in Alaska for her birthday,” Palmieri said. “A lot of his job now entails mostly training and getting troops ready for deployment.
“My sister (Taylor) switched over from the Army National Guard to the Air National Guard and she’s based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base (Newburgh, New York). It’s been a little bit of an adjustment for her, but I think she’s really enjoying it. I’m really proud of her.”
Palmieri launched Squad 21 in November 2016. The military recognition program offers active or retired service members the chance to attend a Devils home game, sit in Section 21 at Prudential Center and have an exclusive meet-and-greet with the Palmieri after the game.
On Friday, a number of active and retired military members who are students or alums of William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey and part of the office of veteran and military affairs program will watch the game against the Penguins from Suite 220 before meeting Palmieri afterward.
The Kyle Palmieri Foundation was introduced in August 2018 to help raise money and awareness for programs designed to help veterans and their families. The second annual Kyle Palmieri Foundation Military Ball will be held at The Venetian in Garfield, New Jersey, on Feb. 22, 2020.
“The foundation has been gaining more traction, whether it be different organizations owned by vets or in support of veterans and our active-duty military, so there’s been so much outreach and so many people who want to lend a helping hand … it’s been incredible,” Palmieri said. “As the foundation grows and extends its reach, we can just keep helping more people and giving back to the men and women who sacrificed so much. And I think as that happens and we move forward, it’s an honor for me to be kind of a middle man between connecting some of these great opportunities and resources for veterans and being someone who supports them.”