The news came out today that coach Ken Whisenhunt will be one of four NFL coaches, present and past (Gary Kubiak and father and son Mora as well) heading to the Persian Gulf to visit U.S. military troops and help boost morale while they are over there serving our country. Obviously, many connect the Cardinals with the military because of Pat Tillman, but former safety/general manager Larry Wilson was one of the first players to take part in one of these USO tours (I’ve repeated posting Wilson’s Vietnam picture below, with the Rams’ Dick Bass in the middle with the beret and Dandy Don Meredith on the far right. Wilson is second from the left).
It’s different than back in Vietnam. Doing some research for this, I came across an article that quoted former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, who apparently was in the service before going to the NFL and then went to Vietnam in 1968 for one of these trips. Russell was actually handed a machine gun and asked to ride shotgun because they didn’t have anyone else to spare. Russell even did a two-hour guard shift at the hotel, M-16 at the ready.
I am guessing Whisenhunt won’t have to deal with that, although he did say things have changed in the region — after the raid on bin Laden — since he said he’d take the trip. It was low-key for Larry Fitzgerald back in 2009 when he went too.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you stand on why soldiers are where they are in the world. It matters that they are willing to do a job many, frankly, aren’t. For what they do for us, it makes sense to send over celebrities — in this case, NFL coaches — to remind them their work isn’t forgotten.
Tags: Andy Russell, Don Meredith, Gary Kubiak, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Wilson, Pat Tillman
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