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  1. #1
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    Rams pay tribute to military vets Sacrifices of armed forces have extra meaning for s

    Rams pay tribute to military vets Sacrifices of armed forces have extra meaning for some team members.
    by BY JIM THOMAS jthomas@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8197 , St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    Normally at the end of practice, Rams players huddle up en masse in the middle of the field. Coach Steve Spagnuolo makes a few remarks about the day's work or the upcoming game. And that's it.

    But on Wednesday, Veterans Day, it took a little longer than usual. This time, the entire team kneeled, heads bowed. At the request of Spagnuolo, safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was leading the Rams in prayer.

    "The team was just really saying a prayer and thanks for veterans," Spagnuolo said. "Not only the ones in the past, but the troops that are over there fighting for us now."

    Atogwe has no immediate family members in the military, but he has friends who have served.

    "I think it's important to honor the men and the women who protect our freedom - our earthly freedoms on a daily basis," Atogwe said. "We definitely said a prayer for them and just gave 'em thanks."

    Among others, the words hit home for defensive end Leonard Little, whose older brother, Sgt. Lamont Hughes, is currently in Afghanistan, leading an Army platoon.

    The words also hit home for linebacker James Laurinaitis, whose brother, Joey Laurinaitis, served in Iraq five years ago; and for quarterback Marc Bulger, who along with St. Louis radio personality Dave Glover donated time and money to refurbish the USO center at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

    "The more I meet service men and women, the more I respect them," Bulger said. "They're

    unbelievable people."

    But Atogwe's words perhaps hit home most of all for center Jason Brown.

    Brown recalled Wednesday a "pep talk" he received from his mother in August 2003. At the time Brown was going through some tough times at the University of North Carolina, where he played his college ball.

    But instead of getting the typical words of support that he would expect from a mother, she snapped at him. "You just need to shut up. Because none of what you're going through right now will ever compare to the sacrifice of what your brother is going through in Iraq."

    "She was right," Brown said. "My brother, he was dodging bullets in harm's way, putting his life on the line every single day. The same thing that thousands, tens of thousands of our troops (are doing), and hundreds of thousands of our vets have done in the past."

    Just a month or so after that lecture, Brown's older brother - Army Spc. Lunsford B. Brown II - was killed by mortar fire on Sept. 20, 2003 outside Baghdad. At first, Brown said he was in denial about his brother's death.

    "Time heals all things," Brown said. "And you have to believe that God has a purpose for everything and their life. And I know that my brother, the sacrifice that he has made, I know he's in a better place."

    Brown has a picture of his brother, in uniform, taped to his locker stall at Rams Park.

    "I think about that every day," Brown said. "I can't complain about anything. ... And you know what? We like to think that Football is a tough sport. A lot of the fans would like to think that Football is grueling. We hit pretty hard. You know what? Football isn't hard when you put things in perspective. Nothing of what we do in Football will compare to their sacrifice."

    Laurinaitis remembers how worried his family was when his brother was deployed to Iraq.

    "It's a scary time," he said. "I remember when the only time you could (communicate with) him was when he wrote you letters saying, 'There are mortars going off every night ... just keep praying for me.' You never really can comprehend until you have like a family member that's actually over there."

    Little keeps in touch via e-mail with his brother, who remains a loyal Rams fan thousands of miles away in Afghanistan. "He sees a lot of our games," Little said. "I don't know how. But he tries to keep up with our games as much as possible."

    Little tries not to think about the fact that his brother might be in danger every day.

    "Before he left, he told me not to worry about it," Little said. "But you can't help it. He is my big brother, so you can't help but think about what's going on over there."

    Joey Laurinaitis will be in attendance at Sunday's Rams game against the New Orleans Saints, cheering on his brother.

    Little said his brother is scheduled for a 30-day leave soon, and may be able to catch some Rams games in person in December.

    As for Lunsford B. Brown II, he never got to see his younger brother play in the NFL. But Jason Brown seems to have accepted that, and offered words of comfort to American families with loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    "Find hope and find peace and faith knowing that the sacrifices of what they're going through right now, they're not lost and they're not in vain," Brown said. "That's why it's so important for our vets to be remembered. For our current troops to be remembered, recognized, and honored. And to let everyone know that their sacrifices will never be forgotten."


    Copyright 2009 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc. All Rights Reserve

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    Re: Rams pay tribute to military vets Sacrifices of armed forces have extra meaning f

    Lets go rams!!! I would like them see them win one more time before I have to go to Afghanistan, The saints game will be the last, hopefully not the last, game I will see... GO RAMS!!!!

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    Re: Rams pay tribute to military vets Sacrifices of armed forces have extra meaning f

    Good luck Trevor...stay safe, and come talk when you can.

    My brother was over in Iraq a few years ago. It was a difficult time for him. I hope you are not in an area that has a lot of enemy interaction.
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