Redskins Salute on Saturday held a Military Appreciation Day for servicemen and servicewomen, providing them an opportunity to see practice and mingle with the players.
Redskins Salute, the official military appreciation club of the Washington Redskins, held Military Appreciation Day presented by Geico Military on Saturday at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
Redskins Salute and GEICO Military hosted Military Appreciation Day for active, reserve, and retired military service members on Saturday, July 30, 2016, at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond Va.
The first 50 military members in attendance were given VIP passes to enjoy practice. The day featured giveaways, raffles and discounts for service members, but was truly represented by the mutual admiration of service members and the Redskins players.
"It's very great to give back to us and give us the opportunity to meet some of the players and treat us like we mean something," MM3 Petty Officer Chris James said. James, a Redskins fan since 2005, returned from his second deployment in May. He left Norfolk, Va. at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning to arrive in time to enter the VIP section.
The players were quick to offer their gratitude to service members as they came off the field.
"I don't think there's anything more important than the military to our country, so to be able to go over (to the veterans) and show some appreciation for them, and that we couldn't play this game if it weren't for what they do is huge," defensive end Trent Murphy said.
Players were humbled to spend time with the troops in a reminder that football isn't the only job where you put your body on the line.
"It's important to us, obviously they do their best to defend our country," safety Will Blackmon, whose cousin serves in the military, said. "I've got the utmost respect for what they do, and it's a real life situation. Because of that, I don't take what I do too seriously...the fact that they're going over and laying their life on the lines for us all the time is definitely something I appreciate."
For some veterans, seeing younger generations give thanks was moving.
"I feel kind of good inside, I feel special that in today's day and age that the military is appreciated," Sgt. 1st Class Mark McPherson Sr. said. "It's long overdue. And what the Redskins do for us, just something as small as this, it touches my heart."
McPherson, who retired after 23 years in the U.S. Army, was optimistic about both society appreciating the armed forces as well as the Redskins chances to repeat as division champions.
"As soon as I heard about Redskins Salute I had to sign up," Master Chief Rhonda Killmon also noted. "I try to go to as many events as they have, they treat us so wonderfully and great, it's just a privilege to be a member of it."
It was a day many won't forget any time soon.
"The Redskins Salute Program being the first program of it's kind, I think all NFL teams should do the same thing," Sgt. 1st Class Jim McCulley Jr. said. "I know they do military appreciation month and salute to service games but Redskins Salute is unique, the veterans actually get an interaction with the NFL. Some of the things they do through the program are awesome. It really helps out veterans and they appreciate it. I'm so proud of the Redskins."