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Chargers Practice Aboard the USS Ronald Reagan
That’s hardly groundbreaking news.
However, holding it aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan at Naval Air Station North Island made this walk-through a noteworthy and rewarding experience for the Chargers.
“This has been amazing for us to come out here and share our support, love and admiration for the people who protect us,” said Eric Weddle. “This is something we look forward to as players. We definitely like to get out of our norm and our facility, so to be able to come out and have fun on the deck of a warship, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
After holding a light walk through that featured the team integrating sailors into the action, the team took pictures, signed autographs and spent a half-hour mingling with the troops and their families aboard the aircraft. The experience was the continuation of a long-standing relationship between the Bolts and the military.
“This is a great opportunity for us to say thank you to the men and women who serve our country,” said head coach Mike McCoy. “With everything they do for us, they’re big fans of ours and big supporters of the San Diego Chargers, so it’s great for us to be here. They are excited to have us here, but as excited as they are for the players and organization, we might even be more so. We’re very fortunate to be here.”
General manager Tom Telesco echoed those very same sentiments, explaining how important the relationship between the Chargers and armed forces is to the organization and city.
“San Diego is a military town and the Chargers are a part of this community,” said general manager Tom Telesco. “So to come out and thank everybody from the sailors to the navy community, for us, is rewarding. When I first arrived here in January, Vice Admiral (David) Buss invited me over to his house for dinner with his wife, and it was a really nice gesture by them to welcome me to this city. I told him at the time if there was ever a way to do anything for him, I'd do it, and I knew the Chargers in the past had practice on an aircraft carrier. So it was a great idea, and it’s a way to thank them for their support.”
Vice Admiral Buss, who is in charge of all the aircraft carriers, squadrons and people who make up the airbase, explained how special it was to have the Chargers aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.
“This is terrific,” he said. “Like I mentioned in my remarks, the community outreach and relationship that exists in San Diego between the military and the local community exemplified by the San Diego Chargers, it is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the country. For the young sailors in particular, this is a great opportunity. They come to the stadium on Sundays or sit at home and watch them on TV, these are the professional athletes that they root and cheer for. So to interact with them here on their turf on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is really pretty special.”
The event was particularly noteworthy for the Chargers who have deep roots in the military, including Marcus Gilchrist.
“My dad was a marine, so this is really special for me,” said Gilchrist. “We get to show our support for people who are integral in our lives. We’re blessed to be able to play the game that we love, but we wouldn’t be able to do that if they weren’t doing what they were doing for us. The military has been a big part of my life, so I appreciate the relationship between the Chargers and the military.”
Ladarius Green is another Charger with strong ties to the military. Both of his parents were in the army and he grew up on a base in Germany.
“Everything that they do for our country, it’s great to give back to them,” Green said. “These guys go through so much and the Chargers do a great job of giving back to them, including days like today when we get to spend time with them .”
Still, being able to spend an extended period of time with the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan was special for each Charger no matter their background.
“I love this,” said Donald Butler. “I think honestly we enjoy it more than they do even. We’re all smiling and laughing and the kids are running around, so it’s great for the community and it’s great for us.”