Over the course of the NFL’s 45-year partnership with the USO, more than 200 active and former players and coaches have traveled to more than 20 countries.
Participating in the 2012 NFL-USO Tour are Browns center Alex Mack, former Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, Texans tackle Eric Winston, Panthers punter Jason Baker and Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes. Jones talks about his experiences on tour with the USO and troops in Afghanistan:
Day 3 – Afghanistan:
We’ve had the opportunity to visit a couple of different bases throughout Western Afghanistan and meet a lot of different troops. Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army, Reservists and National Guard; it’s uplifting for the players because we are trying to give back to everyone out here. These troops are protecting us, and coming over here to salute them is a tremendous honor.
There are tons of football fans out here. I’ve been able to embrace the fans of each of my teams — Giants, Eagles and Bengals. I think the most striking thing has been watching the day-to-day grind that our troops go through. These guys are putting in 12-hour shifts, seven days a week with the sole purpose of protecting our country. Still though, morale seems positive and everyone is focused on the goal at hand.
We’ve been able to fly in helicopters to a couple of different bases. We had a barbecue at Forward Operating Base Farah and everybody came out. We had the opportunity to get to know a lot of guys, and of course thank them for their service.
Probably the best time of all has been simply sharing a meal with the troops. We sit around a big table and go back and forth sharing stories. Hopefully our visit is able to break up the monotony of their day-to-day grind. The USO has done an amazing job supporting the troops out here. We feel privileged to give our time for such a good cause.
— Dhani Jones