The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is more than a football game to highlight the top high school athletes and band members in the nation. The week of activities also includes tours and activities to introduce participants and spectators to today's Soldiers and what it means to be Army Strong.

In addition, more than 80 secondary and postsecondary educators, high school coaches, band instructors, and business and community leaders from across the country visited the Army Strong Zone, toured Fort Sam Houston medical facilities and viewed a demonstration by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in conjunction with the All-American Bowl Jan. 2-4 in San Antonio, Texas.

The football coaches participated in the U.S. Army National Combine and Coaches Academy, as well as the All-American Bowl awards dinner, featuring former NFL running back Marshall Faulk.

At Brooke Army Medical Center, the group learned about the center's state-of-the-art burn unit, the only burn center in the Department of Defense, and toured the Center for the Intrepid, the National Armed Forces Physical Rehabilitation Center. They were able to speak with military members wounded in combat about their service and rehabilitation.

"I had no idea what I was in for and that really touched my heart. It made me realize that these young men and women are dedicating their lives and giving of their lives for me----for all of us. This type of dedication is far beyond our imagination. They love what they do," said Penny Slagle, a Williston, N.D., High School physical education teacher. "I have always had the utmost respect for those who serve in our military--but you have won my heart over," said Slagle, who admitted that before she attended the bowl, she did not encourage the military as a path for her sons.

"I look at our servicemen and women with a whole new respect and appreciation. ... I see what it does for them, how it builds them up, creates such a pride and confidence in them, and gives them so many opportunities for an education. And to learn how to serve. I like that."

The group also heard from several Soldiers who discussed their skills training, experiences and education opportunities - both as enlisted Soldiers and officers - in the Army and Army Reserve.

In addition, several of the participants had the opportunity to tandem jump with the Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team at a nearby airfield, and to receive instruction on shooting skeet and trap with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at the San Antonio Gun Club.

"Jumping [with the Golden Knights] was equal with the other greatest rush of my life: shaking hands with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. I breathed and touched a cloud today; it doesn't get better than that," said Father Brian Stanley of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Coldwater, Mich.

Although men and women serving in uniform overwhelmingly receive tremendous support across the Nation, not everyone truly understands what it means to be Army Strong.

"It is a Strength like no other. Soldiers in the U.S. Army gain experiences that cannot be found anywhere else in the world," said Don Bartholomew, director of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command Marketing, Education and Outreach Division. He said the event was designed not only to educate the participants on today's Army and today's Soldiers, but also to request their support for Army recruiting efforts and the recruiters in their communities. "This group of attendees departed San Antonio committed to making a difference back in their parts of the country" Bartholomew said.

"You're here so that you can go out and you can help us tell [the Army] story," said Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commanding general, U.S. Army Recruiting Command. "You can open up the doors in your communities and you can make sure that the Army wins at the local level."

He asked the educators, coaches and community leaders to invite Soldiers to return to their hometowns, high schools and colleges so they can share their experiences and explain firsthand what it means to be a Soldier today.

"Our Army needs the help of people like you to continue to attract to its ranks in sufficient numbers, the intelligent and patriotic young people it needs," said Maj. Gen. Bartell, commanding general, U.S. Army Cadet Command, who also spoke to the group. "Help us spread the word out there that America's Army is something to be proud of, and it's a great opportunity."