The Washington Redskins Welcome Servicemen to Training Camp

SPC Bradshaw is flanked by backs Clinton Portis (L) and Mike Sellers (R). (Photo credit: Pam Chvotkin)

By Brian Anthony Price/Special to the USO

On a miserable, gray Sunday last week, thousands of loyal Skins fans came out for open practice. They were back early Monday morning to watch in the blazing sun. Rain or shine, a sizable number of these fans were men and women from the armed services, who just can never get enough of Redskins football.

One of them, Specialist (SPC) Robert Bradshaw recently returned from a one-year tour in Afghanistan after having completed over 400 missions. Bradshaw came back to his native D.C. on Saturday August 14th. The next day, he was front and center at Redskins training camp: “This is the first thing I wanted to do, see my Redskins up close. Being here is just awesome.”

Turns out, Bradshaw was hoping to meet running back, Clinton Portis. So Zach Bolno, the Redskin’s former Executive Director of Communications, set a plan in motion. As he left the field, Portis was directed to Bradshaw and headed right over: “I hear you just got back from combat. Here, I gotta’ give these to you.” Portis handed the young soldier his workout gloves and sweatbands and signed all 20 of his football cards.

Fullback Mike Sellers was waiting on deck to join them and after the two players posed with Bradshaw for pictures, they thanked him for his service.

Sellers reminisced about growing up the son of an Army man: “My Dad was extremely strict. I always had a curfew, but it helped get me to where I’m at right now. Hard work, perseverance and never quitting: that’s what my Dad taught me.” He added that having a devoted and local fan base of military families and veterans “is a motivation that a lot of other teams don’t have.”

Other teammates agree. Linebacker Rocky McIntosh, whose father is an active service member, visited Elgin Air Force Base [near Valparaiso, Florida] and challenged some of the troops to a fitness contest. “They kicked my butt. From push-ups to sit-ups to pull-ups, they tore me up. I was still in the offseason, but they’re up bright and early training every day. I didn’t stand a chance!”

LB London Fletcher signs autographs for members of the U.S.M.C. (PC: Pam Chvotkin)

Guard Derrick Dockery is another player with family ties: “My father-in- law is a retired colonel and was deployed to Iraq several times. The troops are people near and dear to my heart.”

The Army wasn’t the only branch of the military represented at Redskins camp. The front office invited several active members of the United States Marine Corps out to camp that day. Sgt. Allen Waggoner was one of them. He’s been to Iraq twice and is planning on going back for a third tour. When asked why, his response was simple: “We reenlist. It’s what we do.”

The mutual respect between the Redskins players and the troops is a continual source of inspiration to both.

“They’ll leave [camp today] happy to have met a football player. I’ll leave just as happy having met people who have served,” said veteran linebacker, London Fletcher.

Since joining the Redskins, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has spent time visiting with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. “We enjoy going out to Walter Reed every year, giving back, and showing the troops our support. We have a lot of Redskins fans in the military. I love hanging out with them.” He added some thoughts about the team and the upcoming season. “There’s a lot of optimism and there’s a whole new vibe. We know the troops are watching and we want to get some wins for them.”

Shout Outs

Trent Williams, OT: “It takes a real man or woman to stand up and fight for our freedom. Be careful, God bless and come home safe.”

Andre Carter, DE: “Everything the troops do has not been forgotten. Now hurry up and home come safe. We love you and God bless.”

From Maury Povich, who was a special guest at training camp on Monday: “We have it good in this country and the reason for that is what everybody is doing for us overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where there are threats. Anybody who is an American understands exactly what their protection means and we’re all so grateful to our troops. I want to thank them dearly.”

Special thank you to Matt Taylor, Zach Bolno, Angela Alsano, the entire Redskins organization and front office and photographer Pam Chvotkin.

Brad Childress Talks USO Tour

(l-r) Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, Minnesota Viking head coach Brad Childress, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis talk with military police (MP's) stationed at Kaiserslautern Air Base during a USO tour stop on June 30, 2010. (USO photo by Fred Greaves)

WCCO’s Mark Rosen sits down with coach Brad Childress to discuss his recent USO tour and – oh yeah – football!  The video is rather small, but to watch the full-size view, please click here

Pro vs. GI Joe Brings Giants and Redskins to Troops in Iraq!

Soldiers play “Guitar Hero” against players at the ESPN Zone in Washington D.C., as part of the “Pro vs. GI Joe” video game competition, June 8, 2010, which pitted troops against Washington Redskins football players. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby)

The ESPN Zone locations in New York City’s Times Square and downtown Washington, DC, were packed with wounded warriors, NFL players, USO staff and volunteers, and gaming enthusiasts of all stripes when Pro vs. GI Joe took the stage for heated competition – all in the name of supporting the Troops.

“Troops spend a lot of their downtime playing video games overseas,” co-founder Addie Zinone told AFPS. “When I told Greg about that, he thought of a way we could kind of give back to the troops [through] playing video games.”

This week’s activities kicked off on Monday, when soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 85th Infantry, Warrior in Transition Unit at Fort Drum met New York Giants players for a matchup on XBox 360.  Adding to the excitement was the opportunity to play Guitar Hero against Troops stationed in Basra, Iraq.  Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih stopped by and Tuesday morning the group appeared on CBS’s “The Early Show” to meet Dave Price, the show’s weatherman.

Troops stationed at Basra came to the USO Center there to play wounded warriors and Redskins players halfway around the world. (USO Photo by Richard McCarty)

Later that day, Pro vs. GI Joe packed up and headed to DC, where a group of wounded warriors was set to match up against local USO teams and players from the Washington Redskins, with the winners taking on USO Baghdad.  Jeremy Jarmon – a second-year defensive end for the Washington Redskins – “grew up in a military household where his mother, father, and stepfather had all served in the Army. Jarmon said he loves giving back to servicemembers any way he can.  ‘It means a lot to me to be able to come out here and be able to interact with some of our troops,’ Jarmon told AFPS. ‘Coming from a military family, I know it takes a special type of person to be able to serve over there.'”

In the end, it didn’t really matter who won the matchup, because all those involved had such a great time participating.  We’d like to thank USO Fort Drum, USO of Metropolitan Washington (who’ve posted video on their YouTube Channel), USO Basra, USO Baghdad, the Wounded Warrior Project, Pro vs. GI Joe and all of the active-duty and retired military who took part in these two amazing events.  Way to go – you’re all rockstars in our book!

Miss USA Rima Fakih takes on the drums as soldiers from the Fort Drum Warriors in Transition Unit tackle guitar and vocals at the Pro vs. GI Joe event with the Giants in New York City, June 7, 2010.

Check Out the Video from the 2010 Coaches Tour

(L to R) 2nd Lt. Nick Mercurio, Iowa Graduate Assistant Charlie Bullen, Gunnery Sergeant Will Cuellar, Harvard University head Football Coach Tim Murphy, and wounded warrior Ryan Kules of the Wounded Warrior Project take time out to pose for a group photo during the 2010 USO/Morale Entertainment Coaches Tour. (Morale Entertainment photo by Blake Belcher)

As you no doubt read on the blog last week, the USO/Morale Entertainment 2010 Coaches Tour spent nine days in Germany and Southwest Asia spending time with Troops.  West Point head coach Rich Ellerson, University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, Harvard University head coach Tim Murphy, and University of Illinois head coach Ron Zook were each on their first USO tour, and they made this videos along the way.  Enjoy!

Coaches Rich Ellerson, Chip Kelly, Tim Murphy and Ron Zook Lift Spirits on First-Ever USO/Morale Entertainment Tour

Four of today's top college football coaches pose for a group photo outside the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The coaches are in the region as part of a nine-day, six-country USO/Morale Entertainment tour. (Morale Entertainment Photo by Blake Belcher)

“It’s an honor for me to have the opportunity to spend some time with our young men and women serving overseas, who get up every day and fight for the rights of others. The men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces embody the true spirit of heroism.” -Rich Ellerson, West Point

The USO, in conjunction with Morale Entertainment, recently deployed four top college football coaches overseas as part of a nine-day USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to Germany and South West Asia. Making the 15-hour journey to boost morale and bring a touch of home to troops were West Point head coach Rich Ellerson, University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, Harvard University head coach Tim Murphy, and University of Illinois head coach Ron Zook.

As Tim Murphy explained, “This was not something I had to think about and I committed to it on the spot. We have two recent Harvard Football players who are at Camp Pendelton (Calif.) as Marine Corp offices awaiting deployment to Afghanistan and it’s the least I can do to show my spport for them and all the brave men and women of our armed forces.”

This is the first USO tour for each coach. During the trip, the group is scheduled to visit six countries in nine days to sign autographs and take photos.  They’ll also be participating in panel discussions and leading flag football competitions with troops. Among some of the places visited so far are, McConnell Air Force Base and the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

We’d like to thank American Airlines, which provided all domestic and international travel support for each tour participant as part of its office of Veterans and Military Initiatives; and Under Armour (UA), for donating athletic apparel to service members throughout the tour. And, as part of Under Armour’s Freedom initiative, the coaches will guide troops through an official UA Football Combine aboard an aircraft carrier and lead U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force in the 3rd consecutive “UA Dust Bowl” flag football game!

And while the Troops get a chance to kick back with some of today’s best coaches, it’s the coaches themselves who are humbled to take part in their first tour:
“To say that my USO tour has had an impact on me would be an understatement,” said Ron Zook of University of Illinois. “There is something profound about following in the footsteps of our troops and taking part in the activities that shape their everyday lives. I only wish everyone had this opportunity.”

University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly takes time out to sign autographs for some of his youngest fans as part of his week-long USO/Morale Entertainment tour abroad. This is Murphy's first overseas tour to visit U.S. troops. (Morale Entertainment photo by Blake Belcher)

Harvard University head coach Tim Murphy takes time out to chat with a Wounded Warrior Project representative at the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. In the region to boost troop morale and talk football, Murphy, along with three other college coaches, are scheduled to visit six countries in nine days as part of their first USO/Morale Entertainment tour. (Morale Entertainment Photo by Blake Belcher)

University of Illinois head coach Ron Zook takes time out to sign autographs as part of his week-long USO/Morale Entertainment tour abroad. This is Murphy's first overseas tour to visit U.S. troops. (Morale Entertainment photo by Blake Belcher)

Four of today's top college football coaches mingle with troops during a recent visit to the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The coaches are in the region as part of a nine-day, six-country USO/Morale Entertainment tour. (Morale Entertainment Photo by Blake Belcher)

New York Jets Offer Words of Praise and Thanks to the Troops

By Brian Price, Reporter for SNY

The New York Jets have arguably been the most talked about team this off-season. A 2010 trip to the AFC championship, followed by several big off-season moves, and the opening of a new stadium already has the football world talking about a green Super Bowl. Additionally, HBO will be arriving at Jets training camp to feature the team on “Hard Knocks.” But despite all this attention, when it comes to the troops the Jets have remained grounded and humble. They were all eager to take a moment to offer words of thanks and to share some of their own connections to those serving in combat zones and disaster areas.

Jets running back Tony Richardson tells Brian Price about his connection to the military. (Photo courtesy of Ben Leit)

Brian Price: You have several family members in service.
Tony Richardson, #49, FB: Growing up in a military family was the best thing that ever happened to me. My father was a Vietnam veteran and lifelong military man. The little things that he taught me have always stuck with me: if I’m going to do something I’m going to give it 100%. Little things like always making my bed each morning strengthened my character and have carried over to my professional life. From a very young age I was always very disciplined.

My father was a model of consistency. Everyday he was up early, never complained, and his uniform was sharp. He was just the same guy everyday and that taught me a lot about doing things over and over again, but always doing them the right way.

My sister is still in service. She’s at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. She’s the same way and now teaching my nephew the same values.

Sometimes people look at us as being heroes but, and I say it all the time, the troops are America’s true heroes. Without them we couldn’t do our job and live our lives. They lay their lives on the line and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. That’s what a true hero is.

Richardson’s father, Sergeant Major Ben Richardson, was a career army man. His sister, Shonn, is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army. She’s in line for a promotion to E.A.

Kris Jenkins, #77, DT: My baby brother is part of the air division in Afghanistan. I’m always thinking about him and anybody else who’s serving. I’m just thankful and grateful and I hope they get home safe.

Whatever my biggest problem is, football related or not, it can’t compare to what he’s going through. He’s over there dodging bullets. They call him Goose, but his name is Chance McDaniel. He’s on his third tour so this will be his last one and we’re praying that he gets home safe.

Bart Scott, #57, LB: My father went to Vietnam, so I understand the pain of families and kids who have a loved one overseas. There’s no phrase or words that can be used to thank them enough. All we can do is say thank you and hope they know how much we’re praying for them and how much we appreciate them.

In sports, some say, “We’re going to war.” No. They’re going to war for real. Young men and women, college students, who have bright futures ahead of them and yet they’re willing to pay the ultimate price.

With the war having gone on for some time now people tend to forget because it’s not in the moment. The fact of the matter is there are still men and women over there continuing to fight and die for us. I just hope we get our troops back safely to their families. I appreciate that they’re willing to make a sacrifice that we could never imagine.

Mark Sanchez expresses his gratitude to the Troops with Price. (Photo Courtesy of Ben Leit)

BP: What goes through your mind during the National Anthem?
Mark Sanchez, #6, QB: During warm-ups I’m focused on the game, but it’s during those moments when the anthem is played that I can step away from the game, reflect and appreciate the opportunity to be able to play because of the sacrifices that so many have made.

On behalf of the New York Jets we just want to express our appreciation for our servicemen and women and everything you do for us. We’re with you and thank you for allowing us to have our freedom.

Damien Woody, #67, OT: Hearing the National Anthem is one of the most special moments on game day. Everything that’s happened in history and everything that’s going on today seems to build to that moment. We’re able to play these football games and live out our dreams. We know that while we play a game people are at war. It really makes me emotional in that moment. I’m not just speaking for myself on that. There are a lot of players in this locker room, and many others around in the NFL, who feel the same way.

Trust me, with a lot of family and friends in the service I understand what it takes to do that job. I don’t think I could do it myself. It’s a tough responsibility and it takes a special kind of person to serve. I’m just so appreciative of what they do. I feel privileged to play in the National Football League but a lot of the liberties that I have wouldn’t be possible without the ladies and gentlemen fighting overseas and doing what they do everyday to protect us from foreign combatants.

BP: You’ve spent time with the troops, right?
D’Brickashaw Ferguson, #60, OT: I had a chance to go out to Fort Wainwright in Alaska to speak with men and women of the army. Now I wasn’t on the front but I was on a base. I got a chance to meet not just troops but military families. It was a great opportunity to be face to face with some of the bravest people on earth. I think it was rewarding for them and we went there to show our support but I ended up learning a lot through the experience.

BP: Like what? How was your perspective changed?
DF: There’s still war going on but the news may turn its focus to other things. It’s important to always remain aware that there are still people risking their lives everyday for us whether we hear about it on the news or not.

BP: Do you have some words for our troops?
Calvin Pace, #97, LB: I just want to say thank you. Come home safe. Everybody appreciates what you do by putting your lives on the line, keeping us safe, and keeping us free. God bless.

Ladainian Tomlinson, #21, RB: Look, we’re entertainers that really give the people a chance to enjoy the freedom of watching the game. But from my perspective the troops are the reason we’re able to play this game. What they’re doing is keeping us safe. I maintain my perspective by always keeping an eye on what’s going on with the troops. We’re all so appreciative.

Danny Woodhead, #83, WR: They’re fighting with their lives to defend our country. The troops deserve all the credit they get, and they deserve even more. They can’t be praised enough. We play football and at times it may seem like a big deal but in the grand scheme of things what the troops do is way more important. Thanks for all you do. You make us proud.

Dustin Keller, #81,TE: You sometimes hear an athlete say: “We’re putting our bodies on the line,” or “ we’re going to war.” It’s a game. Our troops put their lives on the line for us. That always has to be appreciated. I have the utmost respect for those in the service.

Shonn Greene, #23, RB: I just appreciate the troops and everything that they do. A lot of people don’t realize how tough it is to be out there. With everybody else back here going about their lives they may not realize it. The troops are greatly appreciated and on behalf of the Jets organization I want to say thank you.

Dwight Lowery, #26, CB: They put their lives on the line for something that’s greater than themselves. We greatly admire and appreciate them. I’m not the type of guy that could go out and do what they do. I have nothing but respect for the troops.

Shaun Ellis, #92, DE: I want to thank the troops for supporting us, having our backs and keeping us safe. God Bless.

David Harris, #52, LB: Their service can’t be measured with words. They put their lives on the line everyday for you and me. We’re all so thankful for the liberties that we have today that the troops provide. Get home safe.

We would like to thank Brian Price of SNY for this post and we’d also like to thank Bruce Speight and the entire Jets front office for their help.