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Broncos players spend time with military members set for deployment at Buckley Air Force Base


AURORA, Colo. — **Every Sunday, NFL fans turn on their TVs or travel to various stadiums across the country to watch their heroes play football.

On Tuesday, a few Broncos players visited some of their heroes as a part of the USAA Salute to Service Caravan.

Linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Dekoda Watson, defensive end Jared Crick and punter Riley Dixon spent their off day at Buckley Air Force Base mingling with military members while also learning more about their daily duties, like how to fly a fighter jet.

"They look at us as the stars. They watch us when they go home, but at the end of the day they're the stars. They keep us safe," Ware said. "It's an honor to go into their world. Sometimes they come to football games, but to come on base, see them dressed in their uniforms and see what they do, it's just amazing."

The day began with two meet-and-greet sessions, first with military members of the 169th Field Artillery Brigade set for deployment, followed by an autograph session in the Leadership and Development Center. 

"It's incredibly humbling," added Dixon. "These are the people protecting our country, protecting our lives. For them to say, 'Hey, we really look up to you,' and 'You guys brighten our day,' is truly humbling." 

"I don't know why they're looking at us as heroes, because we're not," Watson echoed. "Y'all are the heroes. For them to look at us as a higher figure, it's a big honor but at the same time, it's not even close to what they do."

Ware, the Broncos' Salute to Service nominee, along with Broncos President & CEO Joe Ellis, kicked things off by addressing the members of the 169th Field Artillery Brigade, thanking them for their service and wishing them the best of luck as they prepare for deployment.

Four Broncos players along with Miles the Mascot and Broncos Cheerleaders mingled with military members and toured Buckley Air Force base Tuesday as a part of the NFL's Salute to Service campaign. (Photos by Caroline Deisley)

"I was just talking to them about having a little bit of empathy, because I've been in that position before," Ware said. "I know what it takes moving from place to place [with my family members being in the Air Force]. … It's good to see that they're in good spirits in what they do. We can spread some joy today."

"We sign up to serve in the military knowing that we're going to be deployed and spend time away and make sacrifices," Major Kinder Blacke added. "But to have an organization that recognizes that and goes out of their way to come spend time with us before deploying is really special. I think it makes it feel more appreciated for the sacrifices that they make."

Throughout the day, phrases like "This is the best day of my life," and "You're my hero," echoed throughout the base from the different military men and women.

The feeling was mutual.

The Broncos players gazed in amazement as F-16s roared above them or as pilots explained in detail how to operate a Blackhawk helicopter. 

"It's just a phenomenal opportunity for us to come out here and give a little bit of our time to salute the people that give their time and their lives for us and protect our country," Watson said with a wide smile as he looked around the base's hanger. "It's just a phenomenal feeling."

It was a day that both the members of the military and the Broncos players won't soon forget.

In fact, during the next flyover before a home game, bet on four members of the team thinking about the men and women they met at the Buckley Air Force base and the sacrifices they make.

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