News: Former NFL players visit deployed service members
Story by Sgt. Sean Harriman
CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan – Football-bearing service members and civilians deployed to Afghanistan lined up for photos, autographs and casual conversation with three former NFL players at Camp Marmal, March 11.
“This is a great morale builder for the soldiers,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Rodney Milbourne, “and it’s great of the players to show what type of people they are, coming out to Afghanistan to show their support for what we do.”
Milbourne, the executive officer of Company A, 404th Aviation Support Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, was awarded the privilege of escorting the former NFL stars during their tour in Regional Command (North) for his outstanding performance during a game of “Fast Football Facts.”
Milbourne dreamt of becoming a professional football player until injuring his knee last year. It was during his recovery in the hospital that he decided to join the Army.
The three players, former Pittsburg Steelers running back Merrill Hoge, 12-year former linebacker mostly for the Oakland Raiders, Matt Millen and 13-year Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle and pro football Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, visited eight forward operating bases over the course of only two days, March 11-12.
Millen, the current lead analyst for the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football, gave service members and civilians a rare opportunity: to wear his four Super Bowl championship rings.
Celebrating his birthday in Afghanistan, March 12, Millen was given a unique opportunity as well; an opportunity to reunite with his son, 1st Lt. Marcus Millen, an Army officer in Afghanistan who escorted his father the duration of the tour in RC (N).
Spc. Jessica Howard, an air mission and flight coordination specialist in Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 4th CAB, 4th ID, from Milwaukee, Minn. and a big fan of the Oakland Raiders, wanted Millen’s photograph specifically.
“I’ve been a fan of the Raiders for four years,” Howard said, “and when I heard which players were touring, I really wanted to meet Matt Millen. The former players wanted to talk and they seemed very interested in what we do, maybe because Matt’s son is in the Army, or because football is one of the great American traditions.”
Munoz, ranked number 12 on the NFL Network’s “100 Greatest Players” list as the highest ranked offensive lineman, said what service members are doing for the nation “speaks volumes.”
“When we tour here, the thing that blows me away is the amount of appreciation everyone shows for us,” Munoz said.