About 100 members of the military arrived at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center around 11 a.m. Friday to see the Jets practice. The Green & White put in work inside the fieldhouse today, with the soldiers watching from above on the second level.
"It's nice that the Jets invite the military to be this close and this involved with them," said Air Force Tech Sergeant Stephanie Marshall, full-time National Guard member at McGuire Air Force Base. Marshall travels around the world in Airborne Communications for Special Operations.
Although her job duties are classified, she will get a well-deserved honor as she and her fellow soldiers will be recognized during the flag ceremony before Sunday's game against Jacksonville as part of the Jets' 10th annual Military Appreciation Day.
"It's great that they opened the invitation to us," said Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Brian Barrow. "I've visited other teams' facilities during military appreciation week but experienced nothing as personable and open as this."
Army Sgt. First Class Humberto Aviles has been deployed four times in his 14 years of service, to Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq (twice), as a supply sergeant. Currently he's stationed close by the Meadowlands at the Armed Forces recruiting station in Rutherford, N.J.
Aviles grew up a soccer fan but Jets Nation may have a new recruit after he experienced his first taste of American football.
"I'm curious to learn more about the game. After seeing it up close I'm going to bring this back to my family," he said. "This was a great opportunity, something that motivates us, something we don't do every day. I'm excited to be there on Sunday."
Marine Reservist Sgt. Jaime Salcedo from Dover, N.J., has made three tours overseas while he was in the active part of his eight-year commitment. He's preparing for his fourth trip in March when he'll be activated once again as a member of the 225 Gulf Company headed to Afghanistan.
At 26 years old, Salcedo is an infantry motorman while at war on the front lines patrolling the streets.
"I'm glad to be doing something like this," he said of Friday's visit. "It's nice that someone appreciates what we do."
Jets players look up to the members of the military who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and allow them to play the game they love.
"To be able to have a chance to let them see what we do was great. And to shake hands with them and rub elbows with them, I think it was a very special day," said fullback Tony Richardson. "We tell them how much we appreciate what they do and they say the same thing."
Salcedo is a Jets fan who put his money together to buy season tickets and attends as many games as he can. Although the stakes are much higher in war, of course, he sees similarities between football and the military.
"It is a big brotherhood," he said. "They all work as one. We work over there as one. Each one watches each other's back. You can compare it because these players have to look out for the quarterback and each other. We have to do the same thing over there. It's all a team effort."
"When you talk about it from a training standpoint, teamwork, all these players in this locker room I consider my brothers," said Richardson. "Then when you see these guys, they're like a band of brothers as well."
T-Rich, a "military brat" born in Germany due to his father's service as a retired Sergeant Major and with a sister serving in the military, has great respect for the people in the armed forces.
"They said today was probably one of the biggest days they've had to be able to come out here. That says a lot," he said. "That really humbles you and puts things into perspective when you have our true heroes looking up to us as heroes and the highlight of their day or their week is to come out here and spend some time with us. That's amazing.
"The difference between our job and their job is if I miss a block, the play might not be successful but if they miss a block or an assignment it can end up being someone's life. They look at us as heroes and role models but I look at them as heroes and role models."