Photo Information

HADITHA DAM, Iraq (Feb. 4, 2006) - Former NFL player Keith Byars signs a football while on a visit with the Super Sunday Tour here Feb. 4. The tour included NFL celebrities like Byars, Nick Lowery, Christian Okoye, Bryan Cox and Bonnie Jill Laflin, who signed autographs and talked with troops to show their support for what they do. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)

Photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

NFL players visit Calif.-based Marines in Iraq on Super Bowl weekend

4 Feb 2006 | Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

While families around the United States prepare for Super Bowl parties, Marines and Sailors serving in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle met with NFL celebrities here Feb. 4.

The Super Sunday Tour, a celebrity meet and greet for U.S. service members throughout Iraq, met with Marines and Sailors of the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment – an infantry unit which has spent more than five months rooting out insurgents and providing stability in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province.

Former NFL players, such as Keith Byars, Nick Lowery, Christian Okoye and Bryan Cox, as well as sports TV host and former NFL cheerleader Bonnie Jill Laflin, spent the day posing for photos and signing autographs with the service members.

The former football stars planned to watch the Super Bowl with troops who are away from their families during the biggest sports day in America. With Iraq being eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, they will be up all night with troops who will be watching the big game until at least 6 a.m.

“I would rather be here, giving something back to you guys instead of going to parties back in the U.S.,” said Nick Lowery, former kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL Hall of Fame nominee. “It’s the least we can do.”

During their visit, the celebrities spoke to Marines and discovered what daily life is like for the Marines and Sailors serving here. They also had a chance to become familiar with the various weapons the Marines use in Iraq, such as machine guns and rifles.

“I think one of the best parts of their visit was the look on their faces when we showed them all the firepower we use on a daily basis,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin C. Bordelon, a New Orleans native and maintenance management chief for the battalion.

The battalion’s Mobile Assault Company, a unit that spends most of its time performing mounted vehicle patrols throughout the region, set up a display including various weapons and missile systems used by the Marines.

“It gave the VIPs an idea of what the Marines are working with,” said 1st Lt. John L. Jacobs, a Santa Cruz, Calif., native and platoon commander for the Mobile Assault Company.

According to tour director Brian Lee, the Super Bowl was a perfect time to have former NFL personalities visit Iraq and celebrate with troops during the game.

“It was a big morale booster, especially before Super Bowl Sunday,” said Bordelon. “It was real thoughtful of them to come out to a dangerous place just to see us.”

The tour sponsor also recently supported other tours visiting Iraq to boost the morale of deployed troops. From dance team performances to celebrity meet and greets, the company plans to continue working with the U.S. military in hopes of bringing a little bit of America to Iraq and give Marines a chance to tell their story to people who care and support them.

The visit came at a perfect time and broke up the troops’ daily routine of numerous tiring patrols and operations throughout the last few months. After the celebrities leave though, it’s back to the patrols and other operations aimed at keeping insurgents at bay.

“It is really great they took time out of their day to show how much they care and support us,” said Jacobs. “It shows the Marines how much people really care about us while we are out here.”