By Sgt. Ashley BellMarch 19, 2013
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (March 19, 2013) -- Six National Football League players visited Regional Command-South to visit service members, March 17, as part of a USO troop tour.
This is the first visit here for Roland "Champ" Bailey, a cornerback for the Denver Broncos, D'Qwell Jackson, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, Von Miller, a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, Stevonne Latrall Smith, a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, Davin Joseph, a guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Justin James "J.J." Watt, a defensive end for the Houston Texans.
"It's just a unique opportunity to give back and something you may never get another chance to do," said Joseph. "The troops really are appreciated and we look up to them as role models because of their courage, their efforts and the amount of work that they do."
Smith said it was an honor to be part of the tour.
"I thought it was a great opportunity because the service men and women have such a big duty, they give me the right to choose," said Smith. "I'm an entertainer and I get to do what I love to do; so it's an honor and privilege to get to come over here and see troops.
"I'm here to enjoy the troops and engage with the troops," he said. "Playing football and the military have some similarities, because people think with football everything is done on Sunday and with the military people think everything is done in wartime, but there's a lot of detail and meetings that goes into these things."
Jackson said the decision to join the tour was easy.
"Being with the Cleveland Browns, they have a lot of community service opportunities. When I heard about the USO tour it was a no brainer to travel all this way and show my appreciation and respects," he said.
The players visited different forward operating bases in RC-South to include Kandahar Airfield, or KAF, and Forward Operating Bases Apache, Pasab and Masum Ghar. They signed autographs, posed for pictures with the troops and learned about the mission here in Afghanistan. The players also visited service members at the Warrior Recovery Center and Role 3 hospital at KAF.
Spc. Jamel Womack, a fueler with 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, said he was very excited to see Steve Smith and "Champ" Bailey.
"I'm actually surprised that they came. People usually don't come out here. For them to come over here, it shows they actually care about what we do," he said.
Some of the players had a special message for the troops that did not get the opportunity to meet them on this tour.
"When times get tough, just know that you mean a lot not just to the people you know, but the ones you don't know," said Joseph.
"You guys do a lot of things people don't appreciate and they don't understand, but there are people who are very appreciative, thankful and supportive," said Smith.
"I came in with an open mind. I've been able to travel all over West Africa, but this is different. This is probably the best trip I've ever been on," said Jackson. "Being able to talk to the men and women made me feel at peace."