By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 2, 2009 - For the third straight year, the National Football League and the USO of Metropolitan Washington teamed up to sponsor a Super Bowl party for Washington-based servicemembers and their families. More than 250 servicemembers and wounded warriors recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and their families enjoyed Super Bowl XLIII here yesterday with NFL representatives, food, drinks and door prizes, compliments of the USO and the NFL.
Flat-screen televisions lined the walls at Patriot Sports Zone bar for the 18-and-older crowd, while across the hall at Spates Community Club, a family environment was provided for the younger sports fans to play video games as parents watched the big game on a theater-sized projection screen. Guests enjoyed free food and sodas as they cheered for the Pittsburgh Steelers or Arizona Cardinals.
NFL referees and cheerleaders from the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins circulated through the party, offering autographs and pictures with the troops and their families.
Redskins cheerleader Michelle -- cheerleaders' first names only are used for public events as a matter of league policy -- said she has great admiration for servicemembers and their families, because she knows first-hand the sacrifices they've made. Her father, an Army aviator, is serving in Afghanistan.
"We're here to support the troops and their families," Michelle said, "and it's a privilege, especially because my father has served for 26 years. So giving back to the military community is extremely important to me."
Army Sgt. Jonathan Shaner also enjoyed the Super Bowl festivities here. He's recovering from a hand injury and traumatic brain injury at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and he decided the Super Bowl party would be a good change of pace, he said. He was wounded Jan. 10 during a rocket attack in Baghdad during his second deployment with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
The Super Bowl XLIII party was Shaner's first USO event -- as an infantryman, he said, he usually ends up on security details for celebrity visits rather than actually getting to participate.
"[The USO and NFL] took care of us pretty well," he said. "The food's good, big-screen [televisions] are all over the walls. It's just a good place to hang out during the Super Bowl and kind of relax. Being a part of this event here and seeing how helpful and supportive the USO and NFL really are -- I'm very appreciative."
The NFL has been working with the USO for decades, with NFL stars frequently visiting wounded military members stateside and traveling overseas, often to combat zones, to show their support, Pauline Ray, a USO representative, said.
The Steelers won a franchise-high sixth Lombardi Trophy in a closely contested 27-23 victory over the Cardinals that was decided in the last minute of play.