New York Jets Pay Tribute to Our Troops

The American flag is unfurled over the field during the National Anthem. (Photo by Brian Anthony Price)

By Brian Anthony Price

The New York Jets kicked off Monday Night Football with a tough 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. However, the team scored big with our servicemen and women.

Prior to the game, over 200 troops from all four branches unfurled a massive American flag over the new football field.

It was a proud moment for Jets owner, Woody Johnson: “We’ve got a B-52 bomber flying over the stadium during the National Anthem. We’re extending a flag over the entire field. We’ve invited hundreds of soldiers to be in attendance at the game. We want everybody to know how much we love and support our soldiers.”

Johnson showed his personal support by spending time with the evening’s honorees. DCCS Frank Ferrantelli of the USS New York was among them. “I’m honored to be here as this is my first ever live Jets game. To be welcomed personally by the owner? That’s something I’ll never forget.” Ferrantelli hails from Staten Island and describes himself as life-long, die-hard Jet fan.

Jets owner Woody Johnson with DCCS Ferrantelli. (Photo by Brian Anthony Price)

The feeling is mutual. “Having just honored the anniversary of 9/11 we wanted to do something special,” said  Fullback Tony Richardson, whose father served in Viet Nam and sister is on active duty. “The pre-game ceremony was very emotional and touched a lot of players’ hearts. Honoring our troops puts things in perspective and helps us to appreciate everything we have as Americans.”

Fellow fullback and rookie sensation John “The Terminator” Connor added: “Being part of such a patriotic celebration was a dream come true. I dreamed of growing up and having a chance to honor people who have served. It was a very special moment for me to also honor the fallen of 9/11 as a player in New York.“

The Jets will be saluting the military throughout the season under Johnson’s direction: “We’re at war and everything we do is about our warriors in combat. Our identity, not as athletes, not as Jets, not as people in the NFL, but as Americans, is (reflected in) our troops. We are who we are because our liberties are protected by men and women fighting for us all over the world.”

Special thanks to Robert Mastroddi, Bruce Speight and the entire Jets organization and front office.

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)