FORT RILEY, Kan. - Zach Sheets said he's been a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs for 24 years - almost 25.The 24-year-old second lieutenant with 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, had the opportunity to meet the rookie class, a couple cheerleaders, a couple hall-of-famers and the mascot from his favorite NFL team at the Post Exchange during their visit to Fort Riley June 18."It's a neat they that you only get since you're in the Army," Sheets said. "It's really cool that they came here to show support."Sheets, who was born in Kansas, said he was really excited to meet the new players."Since I'm a big Chiefs fan and graduated from K-State, I know who Gary Spani is, so that was really cool to see him too."Spani, one of the hall-of-famers on the visit, also is a member of the Kansas State University football Ring of Honor.The players and cheerleaders signed autographs and posed for photos for a line of Soldiers and Families that filled the interior of the PX."I've never actually met a Chief in person, and I've always wanted to do this for quite a while," said Andrew Rothfuss, a sixth grader from Topeka. "I'm glad I actually got to come today, and I'm amazingly happy."During the visit, several Chiefs players and the team president, Denny Thum, also met Soldiers at Marshall Army Airfield where they were shown vehicles.The entire group also met with the division command, garrison leaders and John McNeill, VFW assistant adjutant general, at the 1st Inf. Div. headquarters.Thum and Brig. Gen. David Petersen, 1st Inf. Div commanding general - rear exchanged decorative footballs during a ceremony."I cannot express how much we appreciate what sacrifices all of you make here - not only those in service but all the Families - to go ahead and protect our freedom and the way of life we live today," Thum said.Petersen told Thum the Chiefs may have added a large number of fans by working with Fort Riley.
"We have 18,000 Soldiers assigned to this post, so it's almost like you got 18,000 more fans, plus their Families," he said.The Chiefs will open their 2010 season with a Monday Night Football home game at Arrowhead Stadium against the San Diego Chargers Sept. 13.The visit was part of VFW's Return the Favor campaign. The VFW Foundation's mission is to support non-political programs that secure, manage and distribute resources to improve the lives of veterans, military personnel, their Families and communities. For more information on the campaign, visit www.returnthefavor.org.