Sunday marks the Jets' ninth annual Military Appreciation Day. And today 60 members of the Armed Forces attended the Green & White's final practice before their upcoming contest with the St. Louis Rams.
"It's a treat to be doing this," said Marine Corporal Adam Seegle as he watched from the sideline. "It's not exactly a common privilege to be coming out here doing this."
Seegle, a Panama City, Fla., native, arrived in New York City on Nov. 5 aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan. He and about 1,500 Marines and Sailors are in the city to celebrate Veteran's Day events and then they'll move out to continue at-sea training.
"It's a treat being right down there in the harbor," Seegle said. "You're literally in inner-city Manhattan. We're actually still on ship. We come out during our liberty hours and peruse the town, get food and take in the sights."
Last March, Seegle returned from a seven-month stint in Fallujah, Iraq.
"On any given day, maybe like 90 percent of the people didn't want us to leave. They felt safer — these were people who couldn't even walk outside their own homes at times and now they're able to go and do that," he said of his second Iraq tour.
"I think that's probably the best part of being in the service, knowing that you can go out and make a difference in someone else's life. You go out on patrol or something and you have kids happy to see you. Even doing medical services or something, it's nice to go out and see the smiles on their faces."
Army Staff Sgt. Atwaun Hill also was pleased to take in his first pro football practice.
"I think it's great. I've never been to an NFL practice before," Hill said. "I'm a big fan of NFL and football, so it's cool to see these guys out there doing the same thing. The practices look like they're run the same way any other practice is, but it's an NFL team so it's good to see that. I'm real happy to be out here."
Stationed in Seldon on Long Island, Sergeant Hill is a computer specialist. In 2002 he was in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He also served in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2006 to February '07.
"All of us are pretty excited to be out here. It's a big deal and we'll want to get souvenirs signed. But it's like look at what we do. I wonder if one of those guys will ask us to sign something for them," he said while watching Favre take a snap. "I know we don't make millions of dollars and we're not on TV every day, but it would be great that somebody of that stature might respect you and appreciate the things you do."
After practice, all of the Jets players and the entire coaching staff stopped by and mingled with the troops. Wideout Chansi Stuckey received a hat from a Marine and Favre got a Navy hat from a Midshipman.
"We can't thank the members of the military enough for the sacrifices they make and their families make to keep us free and to protect our country," head coach Eric Mangini said this morning. "It's a very small token, but a really important token."
On Sunday the Jets will honor all the men and women who represent our nation and the United States Armed Forces. A giant American flag will be unfurled by 100 troops representing each branch of the military and the Jets have provided 250 tickets that have been split up amongst the five branches.
"I'm very nervous. I don't even know how to describe it. I've never been around that many people in my entire life," Hill said. "I was thinking about that. Do I really want to do this because what if I trip and fall or something? I'm pretty nervous."
Major Gen. Glenn K. Rieth and Col. Randall S. King will serve as honorary game captains.
More than 9,000 soldiers and airmen of the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard operate under General Rieth's command. Reith, the 30th Adjutant General of New Jersey, he also manages New Jersey's Department of Military and Veteran Affairs.
Colonel King is Commander of the 177th Fighter Wing, also commonly referred to as the Jersey Devils, and in the past decade they've had active involvement in Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Northern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. King's F-16 Wildcats will carry out a flyover moments before the coin toss.
The tributes will be many as the Jets and their fans get to share their gratitude.
"We'll appreciate the thanks just as much as the people will appreciate us by giving the thanks," Hill said. "It makes everything worth the effort when someone you've never met before or seen before comes to you and says, 'Sir, it's a pleasure. Thank you for everything you've done.' "