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Mile High Salute to Service

Posted Nov 15, 2012

The Broncos will be honoring the military with their annual Salute to Service game this week vs. San Diego.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When the Broncos burst out of the tunnel at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for Sunday’s introductions, they won’t be alone.

Leading the team onto the field will be 25 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson Army Base.

This week's contest against San Diego marks Denver’s annual Salute to Service game, and the team will show its appreciation for the United States Military with a patriotic pregame show culminating in the entire stadium being asked to join together to sing the national anthem. For that reason, fans are encouraged to get to the stadium early on Sunday.

“I think it’s huge,” defensive tackle Mitch Unrein said of the NFL’s month-long military appreciation campaign. “We wouldn’t be able to play this game if it wasn’t for our forefathers fighting for our freedom. For the men and women serving today, that’s a tough job and I want to thank them every single day for our freedoms that we have.”

In addition to the NFL Salute to Service ribbon, each player will be representing the military branch of his choice with a decal of that branch’s logo on his helmet.

The decision of which branch to choose was an easy one for cornerback Champ Bailey.

Before the start of training camp, Bailey spent a day flying with the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, so his helmet will feature their sticker.

“They’re impressive,” Bailey said of what he learned from his flight. “Just the detail to everything they do. I know our job is difficult but it’s nothing like that. It was a great experience. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Unrein chose to sport the Army logo, given his family history with that branch.

“My father, he served in the Army,” Unrein said. “He’s a veteran, he served in the Vietnam War. And my grandpa served in World War II, and my great grandpa served in World War I and they were all in the Army. That’s the reason why I chose to wear the Army.”

Tight end Virgil Green’s father also served in the Army, so he will be adopting that branch as well on Sunday.

“I think it’s great,” Green said. “Those guys and women do a lot of great things for us so we always have to give our appreciation when we can.”

Green’s dad spent 10 years in the Army, and was pleased when he found out that his son would be carrying that decal on his helmet.

“He was real happy and excited to know that I did it for the reason that I did it,” Green said.

The armed forces are an especially important cause for practice squad defensive end Ben Garland, who will take an active role in the day’s military appreciation commemorations.

During the halftime show, Garland, who is an Air Force Academy graduate and a 1st Lieutenant in the Colorado Air National Guard, will present a game ball to military members.

“That’s a huge honor,” Garland said. “Any time you’re able to represent not only the country, but represent the Broncos in an event like that, it’s a huge honor for me.”

Garland and fullback Chris Gronkowski visited the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson and got to experience a day in the life of a soldier while visiting with troops on Tuesday.

Given his military background, the opportunity to participate in the halftime show on behalf of his team is especially meaningful for Garland.

“That will be a lifetime memory for me,” he said. “Being able to do something like that, just as a Colorado guy, getting to go in the center of the stadium and do a halftime presentation, that means the world. Especially with it being for the military, it especially means something to me and my family. “