By Rob McIlvaineMay 23, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 23, 2012) -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno honored five civic leaders for their service to Soldiers Wednesday evening by inviting them as special guests to a Twilight Tattoo.
Before the historical tableau and review of troops, Odierno presented an Outstanding Civilian Service Award to Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh and four others: Linda Patterson, founder and president of America Supporting Veterans; Bob Delaney, a former NBA referee who has been an advocate for Soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder; Lynn Chwatsky, vice president of Outreach for Sesame Street; and New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin. (Their stories will be told in future articles.)
Harbaugh has invited wounded warriors to watch Raven games. He visited Iraq to show appreciation to Soldiers and just before this past Christmas he and the Ravens sent 300 packages to Soldiers in Afghanistan.
"We had people in the organization that came up with the idea and we were just able to run with it, and players got involved, they were fired up about it, they wrote notes to put in the packages," Harbaugh said. "I think we had two or three notes to put in every package, just kind of a personal note to whoever, you know, who was going to receive the package in Afghanistan."
He added that it was really important to get the packages to the toughest, most remote bases.
"No one in our family ever served in the military." Harbaugh admitted about his youth. "It just wasn't part of our family tradition."
But he had a good childhood friend who became a Marine and deployed to Iraq. Through his friend, he kept in touch with service members in the desert of Al Anbar and realized "what those guys go through and what they're about and what motivates them and stuff."
"So, really it's been more about getting to know people and building relationships with current members of the military and just wanting to help in some little way," he said.
Harbaugh's childhood friend actually spent three tours in Iraq and they kept in touch the whole time.
"We were able to keep in touch, kind of share through phone calls and emails, him sharing probably more with me about motivational ideas and just principles and leadership concepts and stuff and I was just floored by him, who he is as a man and what he stands for, and I figured our players would get so much out of it, and he was great," he said.
The citation presented by Odierno means a lot to him, Harbaugh said.
"I'm probably one of those guys that haven't gotten many awards, but (getting this citation) is the top thing. It's the most meaningful award because it represents just so many people, just to be a small, tiny little part, a supporter of the military and what it has accomplished," Harbaugh said.
The Ravens, he said, have really gotten involved with supporting the military.
"Life's a battle every single day, whether it's relationships, or marriages, or just work and things like that, and then these guys and women, they go overseas and they fight a selfless battle, risking everything so that we can fight these battles here at home and give us the chance and freedom to do that, that's what I love about it and that's what makes it meaningful.
"Thanks to all the service members everywhere, especially the U.S. Army, but everybody in terms of what we're doing, the strain on the families, just credit to the families, the wives and kids. I see these videos when guys come home and the moms come home and the little girls and boys are hanging on their legs and stuff, it makes me get a lump in my throat, so I recognize how hard it is and just how thankful we are for what they do," he said.
(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles about the honorees and their contributions to the military.)