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    Poignant moment for Jason Brown as soldiers visit Rams Park ..

    Bryan Burwell Friday, November 12, 2010 12:20 am

    They roamed the sidelines of Rams Park on this splendid Veterans Day afternoon as if this was the time of their lives. For the 150 U.S. soldiers who stood behind the yellow ropes just a few yards away from the practice field some of them only a few days away from being deployed to the real battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan this was a chance to spend the day as special invited guests and be thoroughly entertained watching their favorite NFL team practice for a few hours.

    This was one of those wonderfully rare moments when valiant American soldiers and their famous football warriors met, and no one was confused by their roles or comparative relevance. The soldiers loved their sports heroes. They cheered when Laurent Robinson made a nifty catch, tip-toeing along the sidelines as if it were a crucial first down in the playoffs. They were practically giddy at the sight of Sam Bradford as the young quarterback came near to pose for photographs and sign autographs.

    During one break midway through practice, one young soldier got close enough to Steven Jackson to congratulate him for breaking Eric Dickerson's franchise rushing record.

    "It's quite an accomplishment," the soldier in camouflage said.

    But like I said, no one here was confused at all about the relevance of the moment. The Rams players understood exactly how this works. People love them because they are the great warriors of the weekend, the men who live in a world full of pseudo-military jargon. But they know the difference between the battles they fight on Sundays where the casualties are measured in broken bones, bruised ribs and the occasional blown knee ligament, and the life-or-death struggles that these men and women will be dealing with very soon.

    So, while the soldiers loved their sports heroes, the sports heroes took the time Thursday to honor the soldiers.

    "All you can do is just thank them for the sacrifice they put on the line, the ultimate sacrifice, for us to have freedom," Jackson said.

    The Rams do this every Veterans Day. The community outreach department invites men and women from all branches of the armed forces to spend the day at Rams Park. They feed them and give them tours of the building and end the afternoon with practice and a meet-and-greet with the players.

    "I don't have anybody in my family that's in the service," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "But as far as I'm concerned, they're all family."

    And for the second year in a row, center Jason Brown was the first player to go over and meet and greet the soldiers and the last one to leave. This is not some mandatory contractual obligation for Brown. This is something that has deep meaning.

    Seven years ago, Brown's big brother, Lunsford Bernard Brown II, a 27-year-old specialist with the Army's 302nd military intelligence battalion, was killed by a mortar shell blast while serving in Iraq.

    If you've ever been one of those people who think professional athletes are hopelessly out of touch, then you should have witnessed how the Rams players paid their proper respects to these young men and women in uniform.

    And then you should have talked to Jason Brown, too. Listen as he recalls in vivid detail how his big brother made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

    "He was killed September 20, 2003," Brown said as he stood outside the locker room. "He was based out of Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. A mortar shell hit their tent at night. The mortar shell hit a table in front of him about waist high, and he took most of the impact and shrapnel, which meant there were several of his comrades behind him."

    As Brown spoke, there was no sadness in his voice. The only thing that welled up in his voice was pure pride. According to official Army reports, Brown was one of two soldiers who died in that tent. But 11 other men in that tent survived.

    "He saved many of their lives," Jason Brown said. "He was 27 at the time, the same age I am now."

    I Googled Lunsford Bernard Brown II on Thursday and found two photographs of him. One was a high school graduation photo and the other a portrait of a soldier in dress blues. Big bro and little bro are spitting images of each other.

    "He meant everything in the world to me," said Jason Brown, who suddenly broke out in a big smile. "That was my big brother."

    A few feet away, the soldiers were still milling around, clutching their autographed helmets, footballs and placards, getting their pictures taken with the Rams mascot and looking at the pictures they had already snapped on cell phone cameras.

    When someone asked Jason Brown what the sight of all those military men and women meant to him on this day, he didn't hesitate to answer.

    "When I see our military personnel today, or any day for that matter, I automatically think 'Sacrifice,'" Brown said. "Not only the sacrifice they make but also the sacrifice their families go through, too."

    So, on this day when the country was saluting our soldiers, Jason Brown remembered the one soldier it's impossible for him to forget.

    "I remember his birthday February 10," Brown said. "I remember the day he and his wife, Sherrie, were married in 2001. I also think about his daughter, Amber, who was born on June 16.

    "It reminds me that my brother's not around. He's in Heaven. And he's not going to be around, so all I have to cling to are the memories."

  2. #2
    MACD is offline Registered User
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    Re: Poignant moment for Jason Brown as soldiers visit Rams Park ..

    Just, wow.

  3. #3
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    Re: Poignant moment for Jason Brown as soldiers visit Rams Park ..

    I can't remember th last time a sports story moved me that much. If it wasn't for the sacrifices of Lunsford Bernard Brown II and men and women like him over the years we probably wouldn't have most of the freedoms we enjoy today, much less the luxury of watching and enjoying the game of football we all love so much and freely being able to voice our opinions about it and anything else we wish on the internet. Americans take so much for granted, and it's unfortunate that the heroes that have fought and died for these very freedoms are often forgotten, except for days like Veteran's Day.

  4. #4
    mikhal5569's Avatar
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    Re: Poignant moment for Jason Brown as soldiers visit Rams Park ..

    Great article. I want to wish all of my clanram brethren who are serving, or who haved served a late happy Veterans Day!

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