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Chargers return to MCAS Miramar

Discussion in 'American Football' started by rexy2006, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. rexy2006

    rexy2006 Well-Known Member

    Dec 17, 2005
    Friday, Aug 08, 2008
    By Casey Pearce, Chargers.com

    Mike Nowak, chargers.com
    Cpt. Joseph Evans receives a few pointers from Shawne Merriman during a drill at MCAS Miramar Friday.

    Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner distinctly remembers the feeling he had as he boarded the bus a year ago to leave Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after his team spent the afternoon with Marines and Sailors.

    “It gets to you when you come out here and see a 19 or 20-year old guy and you know what they’ve been through or what they’re getting ready to go through,” Turner said. “It’s really special for us to have the opportunity to be here and I hope it’s something we can continue to do.”

    For the second-consecutive year, the Chargers got a chance to show their appreciation to the troops as they wrapped up preparations for their opening preseason game by holding a walkthrough at MCAS Miramar. The Bolts spent part of the morning on the base as they went through their normal routine for the day before a game and mingled with those on base.

    Bolts players and coaches listened to the stories of the Marines and Sailors on hand as they signed autographs and posed for pictures with their fans. It seemed as if the Charger players were as captivated by the crowd as the crowd was by them.

    “It’s crazy to hear about some of the things these guys have been through,” linebacker Shaun Phillips said. “I’m playing a game and they’re involved in physical combat. They’re serving and protecting us. I think we all made sure to let them know just how much we appreciate them.”

    The portion of the morning that provided the most inspiring moments came when several players made their way to a tent beside the practice field from where a group of wounded soldiers watched practice. Several Marines and Soldiers were on crutches, some sported casts, while others had large medical wraps on their bodies due to injuries suffered overseas.

    “I was listening to these young guys tell stories about being within 100 yards of a big explosion or being in a helicopter when it went down,” tight end Antonio Gates said. “That’s the reality of war, but it’s the stuff you don’t hear about every day. It makes you stop and be thankful for what they do.”

    Prior to the walkthrough, Chargers Executive Vice President/Executive Officer A.G. Spanos proudly presented two framed jerseys to MCAS Miramar Executive Officer Lt. Col. Jeffrey Koffel. One was a framed 85 jersey autographed by Antonio Gates, the other a personally-autographed 56 Shawne Merriman jersey.

    During last year’s visit, the base received an autographed jersey from LaDainian Tomlinson, who addressed Friday’s crowd after Col. Patrick Gough presented Spanos with a shadow box containing an American flag and coins from the commanding officer.

    “To me, they’re the real heroes,” Tomlinson said. “They’re doing the dirty work on a daily basis to keep us safe. We just entertain the people. Hopefully our being here shows how much we support our troops and the effort they provide to protect our country.”

    The Chargers got a couple Marines involved in Friday’s practice. Sgt. Richard McGinn and Cpl. Joseph Evans lined up across from each other during a one-on-one passing drill and McGinn caught a long touchdown pass from Bolts quarterback Philip Rivers. The two also locked up during a pass rush drill and received a huge round of applause from those in attendance.

    Turner said that he hopes the event continues in coming years because of how much the Marines and Soldiers enjoy it and how much his players get out of the trip.

    “It’s really special,” Turner said. “The reason I like it so much is because the players like it. They don’t look at it as, ‘Oh, we’ve got to get on a bus and go somewhere.’ They look forward to it.”

    The Chargers embrace San Diego’s strong military presence and have a long history of supporting the courageous efforts of the men and women in uniform who call San Diego home. The team will hold its 20th-annual Salute to the Military game on August 25 when they play their final home preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks.

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