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.

Coaches USO tour: Day 2

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid (facing camera l) and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox (facing camera, r) sign autographs for soldiers during a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour stop at Baumholder Army Garrison in Germany July 1, 2010. The coaches, along with Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (not pictured) are on their first overseas USO tour visiting troops in Germany and the Persian Gulf over the course of a week. (USO Photo Fred Greaves)

Earlier this summer, four NFL coaches traveled to Germany and the Persian Gulf to spend times with troops as part of a week-long USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.  Included on the tour were Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid.

Coach Fox recently told a Carolina Panthers reporter about the impact the tour had on him: “It was inspiring. They’re amazing, everybody over there from the leadership to the troops. The sacrifice and commitment they make is probably second to none. It was a neat experience.”

Click here to check in as these former and current NFL coaches meeting and greeting troops in Iraq, courtesy of NFL.com!

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

NFL Coaches Touch Down on a USO Tour to Europe and the Persian Gulf

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (back row L), Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid (back row 2nd l) , Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress (3rd r) and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox (r) pose for a photo with medical staff during a USO tour stop at Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Germany on June 29, 2010. (USO Photo by Fred Greaves)

For the second consecutive year, the NFL deployed four of its most sought-after coaches to Germany and the Persian Gulf to visit troops as part of a week-long USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.  Making the journey overseas are Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid.

Coach Childress had this to say about the experience: “Since my son has enlisted in the Marine Corps I have learned a new appreciation for the freedoms we all enjoy and take for granted.  Our armed forces are the most highly skilled, best-trained men and women in the world. Their character is on display on a daily basis because they’re an all-volunteer force. We all owe them a debt of gratitude and this trip is a small way of saying thank you.”

Check out our photo essay and get the latest on the tour from the Bengals blog!

Two soldiers brief Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox (standing 2nd l), Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress (standing 2nd r) and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (bottom in tank hatch) about the M1 Abrahms tank during a USO tour stop at Baumholder Army Garrison in Germany July 1, 2010. (USO Photo by Fred Greaves)

Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox visits with MP's at Kaiserslautern Air Base in Germany during a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour stop on June 30, 2010. (USO Photo Fred Greaves)

Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress gets some help after trading hats with TSgt Tamala Williams, a cook at a dining facility at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, during a USO tour stop on June 30, 2010. (USO Photo by Fred Greaves)

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (2nd r) talks with airmen at the 435th Air Mobility Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on June 30, 2010. (USO Photo by Fred Greaves)

(r-l) Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox sign autographs and visit with troops and their families at the USO center in the Ramstein Passenger Terminal at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, June 29, 2010. (USO Photo by Fred Greaves)

New York Giants Salute Our Troops

In honor of our nation’s “Patriot Six” the New York Giants invited the USO out to training camp to spend time with players, several of whom had personal ties to the armed forces. In fact, head coach Tom Coughlin traveled to the Persian Gulf just last year as part of the inaugural NFL-USO Coaches Tour.  Correspondent Brian Price spoke with players who expressed their appreciation for the troops, the meaning of patriotism and their excitement to begin a new NFL season.

Brian Price: When do you feel most patriotic?

Corey Webster, #23, CB: Before the game: the American flags are waving, the National Anthem is being sung and especially when a plane flies over the stadium. It’s a brilliant moment. We share the same colors as our country: red, white and blue, so I also feel patriotic whenever I put on my Giants uniform.

BP: Tell me about this team’s relationship with Lt. Col Gadson.

CW: Lt. Col Greg Gadson is tight with Coach [Mike] Sully. They played football at Army together.

Editor’s Note: Mike Sullivan is currently the Giants’ quarterbacks coach. Coach Sullivan is a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne, Ranger and Air Assault schools. He was also a defensive back at Army. Lt. Col Gadson was an honorary Giants co-captain during their 2008 run to the Super Bowl.

Gadson’s platoon was attacked and he lost his legs. He’s a tremendous motivational speaker and he was key in inspiring us during our Super Bowl run. Lt. Col Gadson spoke to us about the importance of being team oriented. Have trust in the person next to you and you’ll succeed.

Giant's Quarterback Eli Manning and Tackle Kareem McKenzie - with Price - show their appreciation for the USO. (USO Photo by Julian Smith)

BP: Your team’s play, particularly during the 2008 Super Bowl, inspires thousands of troops.

Eli Manning, #10, QB: That means a lot. We play football for a lot of reasons, but when I hear something like that, about troops staying up late to watch our games on satellite overseas, that is a huge motivational factor. The fact that these guys have so much courage and are cheering for us always makes us want to go out and give them a great show.

I’m proud to be in this country with a chance to play football because of soldiers who, over the course of history have, and continue to, make unimaginable sacrifices.

Thank you for everything. We’re rooting for you. You have the Giants support 100%. We’re grateful for everything you do for this country. Get home soon.

BP: What did you learn from your recent USO trip to Iraq?

Shaun O’ Hara, #60, C: First and foremost, I was struck by the sheer magnitude of our overseas operation. I also got a sense of the troops feelings: they knew they were doing the right thing by being over there. They believed in the job at hand and they were happy to do it. That was really inspiring to witness. It’s what they had trained for and they were all excited to take part.

BP: What was your schedule like?

SO’H: The main goal was to hit as many places and meet as many troops as possible. We got to spend time with General Odierno and attend one of his daily briefings, which was great. We also had dinner with him at one of Saddam’s palaces at Camp Victory in Baghdad. We were on the tour to show our appreciation, but there wasn’t a soldier that we met who wasn’t thanking us. We wanted to reassure them that they were our heroes.

Price spoke with Giants captain Shaun O' Hara about his recent USO tour to Kuwait and Iraq. (USO Photo by Joanna Levine)

BP: Any surprises?

SO’H: I think it’s important for the American public to know how much we’re helping the Iraqi military. I hadn’t previously realized how hard our troops are working to help them so when our forces leave in 2011, they’ll be able to sustain peace on their own. There are a lot of Iraqi people who embrace our presence and are happy we’re there. We’ve freed them from Saddam Hussein and his reign. They’re a proud country, a proud people and they’re eager for a chance to flourish.

Editor’s Note: O’Hara was joined on the tour by Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.

BP: As a NFL veteran, what’s your advice for young people?

Kareem McKenzie, #67, T: In football, pay as much attention as possible to the older guys who have done it for years. Have a sense of what it takes to be successful. It’s not luck that somebody plays in the league for 10 or 11 years. We’ve worked hard to maintain consistency. Take notice of an older guy’s work ethic. Make a note of how many hours they put into perfecting their craft.

For troops, however, it’s on a totally different level. The mental focus one needs to have to operate in the conditions they do is unbelievable. Wearing body armor in 120-130 degree heat is something that really struck me. You can’t praise them enough.

I’m close with several veterans of various wars and my relationship with them provides a tremendous sense of personal pride. It’s a special thing to know somebody who has served.

On behalf of all NFL players, the support staff, and the entire New York Giants organization, we appreciate everything you do and your dedication to serving this country. We have you in our prayers for a safe return.

BP: Any message for the troops?

Michael Boley, #59, LB: I want to offer a big thank you to our troops. My brother spent seven months over in Afghanistan. Whenever I speak with him he always emphasizes that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. It’s important to appreciate the liberties we as citizens have in this country. What the troops do is more than we ever see on the news.

Chris Canty, #99, DT: Sometimes people can take their freedom for granted, but we always need to be thankful that we have the opportunity to live in America and be free. I’m able to play football because of the dedication of the men and women of the armed forces who protect this country. I understand the dedication and teamwork it takes for us to be successful, but if we fail it’s only wins and losses. If they fail it’s life and death. They’re risking their lives for me and they don’t even know me. You have to have tremendous respect for that kind of dedication.

Dave Tollefson, #71, DE: They inspire me. We’re playing a game every weekend and they’re putting their lives on the line everyday to keep America free and safe so we can sleep at night.

BP: Your brother served this country, right?

DT: My brother, Brett Baatrup, was in the First Tank Battalion at 29 Palms, U.S. Marine Core. He just finished his second tour.

BP: What do you learn from him about the nature of service and combat?

DT: I’ll think I had a rough day at practice and then he’ll tell me about his day: One time his tank treads fell off in the middle of a battle and he had to get out of the tank to put them back on. You want to talk about rough? You want to talk about pressure to perform? Try being responsible for fellow troops lives in a situation like that. That’s not just him. That’s the case for every soldier. I still ask him all the time: “How’d you do it?”

BP: What’s his answer?

DT: “I had to. It’s my job.” Look, I hate making correlations to what we do and what they do. A coach tells me to do something and I do it because I can’t let my team down. It was the same with my brother, obviously magnified a million times over, but it wasn’t about the orders. It was about, as a group, completing a mission and keeping everybody safe.

BP: Did you ever think you’d be doing a job that inspires the bravest people on earth?

David Diehl, #66, T: It’s awesome to be in this position with that in mind. If our play can, at least for a few moments, ease some stress for the troops and help boost morale than that’s what it’s all about for us. I love hearing about troops watching the games overseas and how they organize games against other platoons. As players we get a chance to meet and spend time with the troops and they tell us: “You’re our heroes.” To which we answer right back: “You soldiers are our heroes.”

Many thanks to E. Peter John Baptiste, Pat Hanlon and the entire Giants organization and front office for their assistance with this piece.

Editor’s Note: In addition to supporting the USO and American troops, the Giants are active in many charities and initiatives including finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. Find our more at Esiason.org and CFF.org.

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.