The Ben Hill Griffin Stadium announcer's voice could barely be heard over a five-minute standing ovation that welcomed three soldiers to Saturday's football game.
Capt. Kyle Everage, Master Sgt. Steven Larner and Staff Sgt. Jason Lick were honored for their service in Iraq at the first timeout at Saturday's football game. They also participated in the pre-game coin toss.
The soldiers were part of Operation Tribute to Freedom's "Welcome Back to School" initiative, which recognizes students, faculty, staff and alumni who have served in Iraq and welcomes them back to school during sporting events and other special programs.
Everage, a 2001 UF graduate, returned from duty in Iraq in 2004. In Iraq, he worked as an anti-tank and heavy-weapons platoon leader. He earned the Bronze Star Medal and works as the Florida National Guard liaison and recruiting officer for the UF Army ROTC.
Larner returned from Iraq a year ago.
He has been a soldier for 18 years and also wears the Bronze Star Medal. He is the senior military instructor for the UF Army ROTC.
Lick has been a soldier for more than 10 years, including one year in Iraq. He is a member of the Army Reserves.
Lick described his experience on Florida Field on Saturday as "unbelievable." He said the Army and the Gators are two of the most important things in his life.
Caroline Hinson, a UF chemistry senior, was one of the students in attendance.
"It was very happy and also very solemn knowing that a lot of soldiers are still over there," she said.