COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- On Tuesday, Broncos President Joe Ellis along with current and former Broncos players joined Miles the mascot and several cheerleaders on a visit to the Fort Carson Army Base in Colorado Springs, presented by USAA.
The caravan made the trip in a show of appreciation as part of the NFL's Salute to Service month. In partnership with the USAA, a leading insurance provider for the military and the "Official Military Appreciation Sponsor" for the Broncos, the team has adopted Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division.
Also along for the ride were both of the Broncos' Super Bowl trophies, which the soldiers were able to hold and take pictures with. Defensive end Ben Garland and fullback Chris Gronkowski represented the current players and were joined by former Broncos fullback Reggie Rivers as well as Ring of Fame linebacker Randy Gradishar.
Garland, a lieutenant in the Air Force, said the impact that the presence of the Broncos had on the soldiers was easy to notice.
"It's a huge morale boost," Garland said. "With the young airmen especially or the young privates and sergeants, that opportunity where they came to work today and they were expecting just a hard day's work and they got to hang out with Chris Gronkowski and the cheerleaders, you can't beat a day that. You get to talk about it and it really boosts your spirit."
Sergeant Ian Lisenbe confirmed that the experience was as meaningful as Garland thought it was.
"It's always a good experience, especially when you come to work and you see cheerleaders, you see Broncos players," Lisenbe said. "Especially being a Broncos fan, it's the actual team you root for every Sunday, so to see those guys at your work, it's a pretty good experience."
The visit made an impact on not only the military men and women that the Broncos visited, but on the Broncos as well.
"You can just have a greater appreciation, a greater opportunity to really see the sacrifice and the costs that these military people give from their families, being away from home," Gradishar said. "Sure, they have decided they want to volunteer and be part of our military, but just to get an opportunity to eat with them, see what they do on a regular basis, their training, and see how they actually operate is certainly a real blessing for me and I think we in America will continue to support that issue."
In addition to chatting with the soldiers, signing autographs and posing for photographs, the players and cheerleaders also got a taste of Army life by going inside battle tanks, holding and assembling weapons and trying on the military helmets and Kevlar vests.
"I felt like a little kid," Garland said of his experience inside the tanks. "Every little boy dreams about being behind a tank or in the driver's seat of a Bradley (Tank), operating the guns, being able to hold them. It really felt really cool."
The Broncos even engaged in some friendly competition with the soldiers. A couple of the cheerleaders took part in races while carrying armored vests and guns, and one of the officers challenged Gronkowski and Garland to a pushup competition.
After meeting with the soldiers in the morning, the group enjoyed lunch in the dining hall, which was immediately followed by an autograph and photo session. Later, the players met with Major General Joseph Anderson in his office, where they were given hats and authentic 4th Infantry Division coins.
To conclude the visit, the players and cheerleaders tried assembling and mounting various weapons, including mortar rounds. All in all, it made for a memorable day for Sergeant Brandon Michael Fedoriw.
"Actually seeing them play and then actually meeting them is a whole different experience, how nice they are, actually getting behind, wanting to learn our job, it's a great feeling," Fedoriw said.