By Jim DresbachJuly 21, 2014
WASHINGTON (July 21, 2014) -- The burgundy and gold VIP carpet was stylishly rolled out for regional service members July 12 before and during the first Redskins Salute Military Appreciation Day.
Player and cheerleader appearances, locker room tours, raffles, free giveaways and food were given to and graciously accepted by active-duty personnel, retirees, veterans, Defense Department employees and their families.
An estimated crowd of over 3,000 took part in the FedEx Field celebration, in Landover, Maryland. One of the thousands was Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Senior Career Counselor Master Sgt. James Meyers, who was accompanied by his wife and grandchildren.
"My family has always been a Redskin family, because of my father, even though we are from Ohio, and yesterday just cemented the next generation of fans as my grandkids attended the event with me, and they had an awesome experience," Meyers said. "The Redskins set the standard with a great event with great people, food and opportunities to see behind the scenes."
One of those behind-the-scenes chances was below the bleachers in the Redskins locker room. While walking where Skins players prepare for battles against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, a wide-eyed 9-year-old Xavier Washington had trouble deciding on his favorite Redskin.
"I like [Pierre] Garcon, no wait, I like Alfred [Morris]," said Xavier, who is the son of a retired Airman. "RGIII [Robert Griffin III] is cool, too, but I like [Brian] Orakpo."
The appreciation day was a major kickoff of a year-round joint partnership involving the Redskins and the United Services Organization, known as the USO, which is called Redskins Salute, a military appreciation club.
"Our goal was to create a fun day for these families, and to show them we appreciate their service," said Shripal Shah, Washington Redskins senior vice president and chief strategy officer. "From locker room tours and meet-and-greets with players to live entertainment, I think we were able to accomplish that."
One of the most popular aspects of the Sunday afternoon event was the chance for fans to personally meet current Skins players and alumni. Fullback Darrel Young, rookie linebacker Trent Murphy plus Super Bowl champion place-kicker Mark Moseley and fan favorite Chris Cooley informally chatted with fans. Young, who has a personal involvement with the military, humbly told the crowd that he only rushes the football on Sundays while service members carry the load 365 days of the year.
"My brother has been serving in the military for 16 years," the Skins running back told the crowd. "He's been to Afghanistan five times, so I know what you guys go through on a daily basis. My brother has had to leave his kids - my nephew and niece have only been around him for five years. I'm so appreciative of what you guys do every day."
Moseley has been a military proponent since his first USO tour in 1970. He verbally saluted the veterans and service members in attendance with one simple phrase.
"The biggest message I try to tell the troops is just 'thank you,'" the former National Football League most valuable player said. "There's no way any of us can thank you guys and gals enough."
Redskins Salute is now planning more events for upcoming weeks. Service members will be welcome at a special VIP tent at the team's Richmond training camp, and for the Aug. 7 preseason home opener against the New England Patriots, 1,500 troops will be invited to the stadium for a game day hospitality party.
"We look forward to building on the success of military appreciation day through future events and programs," said Shah. "This is just the beginning. Redskins Salute is going to be a year-round platform for us to really show our support and appreciation for the men and women of our armed forces."
For more information on Redskins Salute and to join free of charge, visit www.redskinssalute.com.