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Eagles honor armed forces at training


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Posted 15 August 2011 - 06:44 PM

Wentz

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Eagles honor armed forces at training

Monday, August 15, 2011, 6:21pm

By Heather Wentz
For CSNPhilly.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The loudest applause of the day began when the first serviceman stepped onto the field and didn't cease until the end of practice Monday morning.

Military Appreciation Day, a tradition for the Eagles organization over the last 16 years, honored more than 250 servicemen and women from all branches of the armed forces.

The Eagles practiced in the morning, and with about 10 minutes remaining, the servicemen and women started filing in around the perimeter of the field. The fans, despite the gloomy weather, stood up and cheered while they filed in around the field, yelling "thank you," "God bless America" and a "U-S-A" chant.

They remained standing as the military personnel were brought onto the field for a cheer with the team and a post-practice meet and greet.

"It's giving a little bit back for what they do and all the service and protection they give our country and the sacrifices they make so we can play this sport," said head coach Andy Reid. "That means a lot to all of us. What they do is phenomenal. They work their tail off to serve all of us and keep us safe, and it's a great feeling to give just a little bit back. You can see how much it means to all of them to be here."

There wasn't a single person without a smile on their face, and it wasn't just because the servicemen were getting autographs from Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson.

After starring as both a wide receiver and a running back at the United States Air Force Academy, Eagles wide receiver Chad Hall knows this better than anyone.

"Just like we're out here every day, they're doing same thing but for a much bigger cause," said Hall, a Second Lt. for the Air Force from 2008-09. "They are getting ready to go to war and they're getting ready to fight for our freedom and go overseas where the real battle is at."

Hall said he is just happy to be able to give back to the military personnel.

"It's a great feeling It's a great atmosphere out here and I'm just glad we do it," Hall said. "Being able to come here and say thanks and talk to them is a great thing."

As for the servicemen and women, it is much more to them than a few signed T-shirts and footballs.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dawn Hoffman has been an Eagles fan from the time she was five years old and said it was really special to participate in the day's events.

"It really touches your heart when you're walking around the field and the entire audience stands up to cheer for us when they should be cheering for the team because that's why they're here," Hoffman said.

The military personnel added that they don't do it for the acknowledgment; they do it to support their country and because it's what they want to do.

"We don't come out here for recognition, it's all about morale," AWF 2 Luis Gonzalez said. "You don't get that much, and there are guys overseas right now so when they come back hopefully they'll get a chance to do this, too."

E-mail Heather Wentz at heather.wentz@gmail.com.