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Insider Blog: A Meeting with 'The Big Red One'

Posted Jun 18, 2010

The Chiefs Rookie Class rubbed shoulders with real American heroes during a visit Ft. Riley, KS

“No Mission Too Difficult,

No Sacrifice Too Great,

Duty First!”

Those are the words that the Chiefs rookie class was given to live by on Friday afternoon in Ft. Riley, Kansas. Former players Ricky Siglar and Gary Spani, as well as Chiefs President Denny Thum, also joined the rookies on their visit.

When you walk into the military headquarters at Ft. Riley, history hits home. “The Big Red One,” which is proudly displayed on buildings, murals, walkways and uniforms, is impossible to miss when touring the base. The emblem carries on the legendary status of real-life American heroes from our military’s past, present and future.

Dating clear back to World War I, if the United States Army has been called into action, the first infantry division housed at Ft. Riley likely led the charge. They were the first of the Allied Forces on the beaches of Normandy, the first to reach England and the first to fight the enemy in North Africa and Sicily in World War II. At times, the 1st Infantry Division spent six months in continuous action with the enemy.

And the list goes on…our troops from Ft. Riley were the first division called to fight in Vietnam. “The Big Red One” was also the first to lead the charge into Iraq during the first Gulf War.

See the common theme here?

The Fighting First is the oldest division in the United States Army and has seen continuous service since its berth in 1917. Much like the Chiefs uniform displays Lamar Hunt’s initials close to the heart, “The Big Red One” is worn with pride on the sleeve in Ft. Riley.

“It means a lot to wear ‘The Big Red One’ patch,” Sergeant Joshua Albright commented. “It’s the oldest infantry there is, dating all the way back to landing on the beaches at Normandy. It’s very nice to wear this, and I’m very proud to be a part of Big Red One.”

When Ft. Riley’s top leaders spoke, the Chiefs rookies resembled fully attentive platoon members. Kansas City’s newest professional footballers heard from the likes of BG David C. Petersen, CSM Darrell (Buddy) Wallace and other US Army personnel. Some of the players even climbed into tanks and gunners for a full, hands-on tour. They all took time to return the favor, posing for pictures and signing autographs for the soldiers and their families.

“I’ve always been a GI Joe type of guy,” WR Jeremy Horne said. “It was great getting out here and talking to all of the men and women here on the base.”

The base visit was the third such trip for the Chiefs over the last 45 days, made possible through the organization’s partnership with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Return The Favor Program. General Manager Scott Pioli and the defensive linemen paid a visit to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas in early May, while head coach Todd Haley and the Chiefs quarterbacks and running backs trekked to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri a few weeks ago.

Ft. Riley represented one of three more military events that the Chiefs have currently scheduled.

“It means a lot to us,” Sergeant Joshua Albright said after giving WR Dexter McCluster a tour of his armored vehicle. “I know that my guys were excited to be here and able to see these football players. It’s nice to have professional players come down and show us that they support the things that we do. It means a lot to us.”

In each of the three base visits, it’s obvious that both parties have gotten more out of the event than autographs and pictures. The kids love to meet the players and the players enjoy interacting with the youngsters, but “talking shop” with men and women in the line of duty always ends up being the highlight of the day.

“It’s important for our players to get a chance to visit these bases,” Chiefs President Denny Thum said. “It’s a great chance to visit not only the troops, but their families and kids. It shows our thankfulness and appreciation for all they do in giving us our freedom and our way of life.”

On all three instances a military official has pointed to a link of shared values that connects professional athletes to military members, creating a special bond.

“There is a lot of symmetry there when you realize it,” said John McNeill, VFW assistant adjutant general. "Our military and our pro football team has basically the same character values – commitment, dedication, teamwork and sacrifice. When you share those values, you can relate with one another.”

The similarities between the two are certainly there, but the team members on the military side of things fight a much greater battle; one that isn’t decided by turnovers and first downs, but rather life and death.

“I think the soldier that are here on this base are tremendous athletes, just like our athletes,” Thum said. “But the one thing is that their life is on the line every single day and its important for our players to appreciate every single minute that they’re on the field, because the troops give us the great country that we live in today.”

The Chiefs are partnered with the VFW and you can be too. If you’d like to partner with the Chiefs and the VFW to assist our military and their families, text “RETURN” to 90999 or visit www.returnthefavor.org.

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