|In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011. This unique afternoon allowed military members and their families to get close and personal with their favorite Longhorn. The football players gained a greater understanding of the sacrifice members of Texas Military Forces endure to serve their state and country. UT Coach Mack Brown is a strong supporter of Texas Military Forces and stressed his sincere gratitude to all in attendance. The opportunity to bring together two great organizations to share synergies and give thanks made for a memorable event.
Story by Spc. Eric Love
CAMP MABRY, Texas – Following a long drill weekend, members of The Texas Military Forces didn't mind staying around a bit longer as their families joined them to share a special afternoon with the University of Texas football team. More than 30 players and five coaches took time away from their pre-season training at the UT 40-acre campus to show their appreciation and support for local guardsmen.
After their Aug. 14 afternoon workout, the team arrived at Camp Mabry, Texas and loyal Longhorn fans braved the sweltering heat to get one-on-one time with their favorite players.
UT Head Coach Mack Brown emphasized the importance of making time in their regimented schedule to reach out to the surrounding community. On this occasion, they met with members of the TXMF, signing autographs and taking photos with their fans.
"Thank you for giving your lives; your families for giving their time and allowing us to have a free country and play a game like football," said Brown. "[Saying thank you] is really important to us."
Brown then started the team off with a customary "roll call" where each positional player contributed their own special chant to kick-start the activities. The crowd was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the team and responded with a loud "Hook 'Em Horns."
The players took time to mingle and say thank you to the service members, signing t-shirts, hats, footballs and posters. Fans, young and old, expressed great appreciation and excitement at having a chance to see the players relaxed in an informal gathering.
"This was so cool," said Spc. Richard Castillo of 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. "It was great to meet the coaching staff and players and I was surprised by how curious they were about what life is like in my uniform."
Army Col. Patrick Hamilton, the joint chief of staff for the state adjutant general, discussed the vital role the UT football players have in lifting a soldier's morale by giving a brief overview of activities members of The Texas Military Forces engage as they are deployed oversees in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
"After being out on a three day mission, soldiers look forward to waking up at 4:00am to turn on Armed Forces Network and watch a UT football game, allowing them to decompress," said Hamilton.
Hamilton then opened up the floor for questions from the players about military life. The topics ranged from the weight of the combat vests to discussing the similarities between football players and soldiers on leadership challenges, morale, teamwork, dedication and hard work.
The answers, geared toward quality of life issues, provided the players valuable insight on the sacrifices the TXMF members encounter on a daily basis when deployed.
"We are truly grateful for all you do and defending our freedom, thank you for allowing us to play the game of football," said Brown.
Hamilton concluded the session by addressing how grateful the Texas Military Forces are for the Austin community.
"We are a community-based organization and being able to connect with the [Austin] community and an organization like the University of Texas is important," said Hamilton. "We are extremely grateful for Coach Brown and his team for coming out to Camp Mabry and giving up their precious time during this busy training camp, it really means the world to the soldiers within The Texas Military Forces."