WASHINGTON - Several members of the Washington Redskins joined forces with the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project here June 8 at the ESPN Zone for a "Guitar Hero" video game showdown with soldiers stationed in Basra, Iraq.
The event is known as "Pro vs. GI Joe," a video game competition meant to connect today's professional athletes and U.S. servicemen and women stationed overseas. Greg and Addie Zinone came up with the idea of "Pro VS. G.I. Joe" while Addie, an Army reservist, was deployed to Iraq in 2008.
"Troops spend a lot of their downtime playing video games overseas," Addie said. "When I told Greg about that, he thought of a way we could kind of give back to the troops [through] playing video games."
That's how the "Pro vs. GI Joe" project was born.
The first competition was with Indy Car drivers and servicemembers, and it has gained momentum ever since. Greg said there were a few "hiccups" initially, but thanks to the USO, they have no problems now.
"The USO saw the potential and how much the troops enjoyed it, so they got a brand-new satellite system that now allows us to play anywhere we want to go," Greg said.
Not only does the program provide overseas troops the ability to play the pros, it also provides wounded warriors an opportunity to rub elbows and hang out with the pros.
Ryan J. Lampke, a U.S. Marine Corps corporal, who is now medically retired and works for the Wounded Warrior Project, said he believes it's important for injured service members to have opportunities like this so they know they are appreciated.
"They are not forgotten about, just because they are no longer in the war zone," Lampke said of wounded warriors. "America is still incredibly grateful for their service and sacrifice, and it's events like these that show it."
Lampke and several others from the Wounded Warrior Project formed a band and faced off against soldiers deployed in Iraq. Unfortunately, the wounded warriors lost. But like any former Marine, Lampke shrugged it off, noting the soldiers had more time to practice than the Wounded Warrior team.
Furthering the sentiment of the soldiers and wounded warriors was Jeremy Jarmon, defensive end for the Washington Redskins.
Jarmon, a second-year player for the Redskins, grew up in a military household where his mother, father, and stepfather had all served in the Army. Jarmon said he loves giving back to service members any way he can.
"It means a lot to me to be able to come out here and be able to interact with some of our troops," Jarmon said. "Coming from a military family, I know it takes a special type of person to be able to serve over there."
"Pro vs. GI Joe" competition doesn't just give the troops a one-time opportunity to play these athletes, but it also provides a building block for future gaming with the professionals.
"It provides a spark," Greg said. "A lot of times the athletes will give the service members their gamer tags so they can play again in the future. That's what we wanted to provide the most for the troops; to feel like they're in their basement just playing video games with their friends."