ATLANTA -- Capt. Joseph Anthony walked out to home plate with a packed Turner Field crowd on its feet. He waited next to Braves third-base coach Brian Snitker as the umpires went over the ground rules, exchanged lineup cards and wished each other a happy holiday.

Not a bad way to spend the Fourth of July, huh?

"It's definitely a great feeling spending the Fourth of July in the States," said Anthony, who returned home from Baghdad last Friday.

Anthony, a decorated 16-year veteran of the United States Army, served as the Braves' honorary captain for Friday night's series opener against the Astros.

"I'm glad to receive this honor and represent the deployed soldiers who are defending this country and doing a great job helping provide peace and security for the Iraqi people," said Anthony, who is originally from Richmond, Va.

Anthony is stationed out of Fort Stewart, which is just outside Hinesville, Ga., and will return to Iraq on July 16. In the meantime, he's taking in all the sites -- Braves games, Disney World, Universal Studios.

"I'm definitely glad to be back," Anthony said.

Anthony was part of the Independence Day celebration at Turner Field that included the largest American flag ever presented at the stadium, which was carried out by about 150 volunteers from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and National Guard. The flag spanned nearly the entire length of the outfield.

"I come from a military family, so Fourth of July is very important to me," Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I'm very patriotic, so it's a great day. My family will all be at the game tonight, so I'm hoping they have a great time and enjoy the fireworks."

After a two-minute video montage, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig delivered a taped message to all the soldiers in attendance, thanking them for their service.

Four T-6s flew overhead as Tasha LaRae, from the two-time Grammy Award-winning group, Arrested Development sang the national anthem. LaRae and her group will play a free concert in the Fan Plaza before and after Saturday's game.

The Braves also wore the "Stars and Stripes" baseball caps on Friday, which are now available for sale with a portion of the proceeds going to the Welcome Back Veterans initiative.