HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Military members from all branches of service were honored by the National Football League with a "Salute to Service" program Jan. 26 to 29 with weeklong events held on Oahu, leading up to the Pro Bowl game.

The NFL's "Salute to Service" program is part of the NFL's ongoing effort to recognize military servicemembers.

The activities started Jan. 26 with practice sessions held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for the first time where Pro Bowl players met with servicemembers, families and signed autographs after each practice.

"We were honored to be before you guys and for what you do on a day to day basis. We can never repay you," said Montel Owens, running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Pro Bowl players also visited Schofield Barracks Jan. 27, where they met Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion and donated NFL Play 60 equipment to the Bennett Youth Center.

The Pro Bowlers held their final practices at Aloha Stadium Jan. 28 as part of "Ohana Day," which means "family" in Hawaiian.

The NFL brought out its best players, cheerleaders, and mascots for the leagues last practice before the game, said Maria Franklin, event director for the NFL. During Ohana Day over 3,000 children from military bases were sponsored by the NFL and provided free transportation to experience activities at Aloha Stadium.

"It's an absolute honor to be here before the military on behalf of the Cowboys and being able to perform and to give back to such a special crowd," said Ally Traylor, Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.

The Pro Bowl game kicked off, Jan. 29 with a coin toss and singing of the National Anthem by Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard Vasquez during the opening ceremony.

Participating in the coin toss were Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, U.S. Pacific Command deputy commander, Army Maj. Gen. Rodger Mathews, U.S. Army Pacific deputy commander, and Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, Adjutant General of the Hawaii National Guard.

During the half-time show, the NFL showcased over 1,000 military members on the field as part of the NFL's, "Salute to Service."

The U.S. Army Old Guard's Silent Drill Team from Washington, D.C. also performed during half-time show.

"This is probably the biggest venue that we've done in a long time and we were more excited than anything else to see all the fans and go out to put on a good show," said Spc. Andres Ryan, a senior soloist in the U.S. Army Drill Team.

"The men and women in uniform and their families have given so much for us, it's an honor to entertain them and try to give back to them," said Traylor.

Page last updated Mon January 30th, 2012 at 00:00