Pro Bowlers visit wounded warriors

(Photo by Daniel Kawasaki/Tripler Medical Photographer)

(Photo by Daniel Kawasaki)

On Wednesday afternoon, the NFL Players Association arranged for Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, Titans QB Kerry Collins, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, and Vikings DTs Kevin and Pat Williams to visit wounded soldiers and their families at Tripler Army Medical Center.

Nestled high on a ridge overlooking Honolulu, the bright pink facility houses about 300 soldiers, all injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, as they recover from their injuries.

The five players entered a large room where Command Sergeant Major David J. Vreeland introduced them to a group of about 25 soldiers. Collins took the lead, introducing himself to each soldier and soon after the room filled with conversation as the players signed autographs, shook hands and posed for pictures.

“This is something I wanted to do,” Collins said. “They have sacrificed so much for us and to visit with them gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.”

Three-time Pro Bowler Pat Williams visited the children’s hospital in Honolulu last year, and wanted to meet with veterans this time around.

“I just wanted to tell them thanks,” he said.

Peterson said he enjoys meeting the men and women who protect the country and wanted to show his support for the troops.

“To be able to interact with the guys makes their day but it makes our day too,” he said.

The group moved upstairs, where Warner presented a group of superior officers with a football signed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“You guys are the true heroes and we appreciate the opportunity to be here today,” Warner said.

Warner’s wife, Brenda, who spent four and a half years serving in the Marine Corps,
accompanied the players on the tour.

“He doesn’t believe that I’ve been in the military because he doesn’t think I can take an order from a man,” she said with a laugh.

The Warners have visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., twice together, but Kurt has made countless military visits with other players during his career.

And it shows. Warner spent several minutes with every soldier, talking about the Super Bowl, their hometowns and their military experiences.

“He’d rather meet these people than any dignitaries,” Brenda Warner said of her husband.

The group also toured the pediatric ward, where 4-year-old Jasmine was laying in her bed with tubes sticking out of her big toe and pointer fingers. Her eyes widened as five towering men ducked under the television hanging from the ceiling to visit her curtained-off section of the room.

The guys gathered around Jasmine’s bed as her mom took a picture with her cell phone, and then Warner sat on the edge of her bed until he coaxed her into to smile.

Back downstairs, the players finished the visit with a round of applause from an auditorium filled with surprised members of the Tripler medical staff, who didn’t know the group was coming. Warner thanked the soldiers again for all that they do and Vreeland led the auditorium in a chant of “Hooah!” to thank the Pro Bowlers for taking the time to visit the wounded soldiers.

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