TE Bear Pascoe, RB Jacquizz Rodgers and DE Cliff Matthews honored members of the military for military appreciation month by visiting Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.
Charged excitement and touching gratitude hung in the air Tuesday afternoon as several members of the Atlanta Falcons met local, everyday heroes that make up the 94th Airlift Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga.
Airmen from the 94th, along with base and civilian personnel, didn't let the unseasonable temperatures stop them from coming out and meeting players from their hometown team. Braving the bitter cold, the crowd began lining up in anticipation before the event began, snaking the line through the front doors of the Base Exchange.
Over the course of the following hour, players shook hands, took selfies, posed for group photos, and signed autographs, showing a small token of their appreciation for the military members and their families at Dobbins ARB. At times, they came out from behind the designated table and spoke one-on-one with those in uniform, finding out their daily duties and getting to know the brave individuals on a more personal level.
From afar, it seemed as if it was an ordinary community Tuesday, but for Falcons tight end Bear Pascoe and defensive end Cliff Matthews, each who have family and friends who have served or are currently serving in the military, it was much more. At the same time, however, they felt as if the event wasn't enough.
"I'm able to play football because they serve our country and protect our freedoms," Pascoe said. "I don't know if I can express how much that means to me. For my small part, to come out here and hang out for a couple of hours and shake their hands and take pictures, I feel like that's not enough to show my appreciation for what they do. It means a lot to them, (but) what they do means the world to me."
The humble attitudes, coming from both the service members and the players were unmistakable, with both parties looking at the other as their hero. Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilson said the general public looks at those in uniform as heroes and holds them to a high regard; yet, to those in uniform, idols such as the Falcons are heroes on a different level.
With the holidays around the corner and a looming deployment for more than 150 members at Dobbins ARB at the start of the new year, the heartwarming event Tuesday afternoon acted as a motivator and a huge morale booster for the entire base population.
"(There's) a lot of uncertainty in the world today," said Wilson, who serves as Chief of Public Affairs for the base. "If you're wearing the uniform, you don't have time to slow down and think about the risk or the unknown of what that deployment may hold. You're just focused on making sure that you're trained and ready to deploy."
The actions that seemed small and inconsequential to the players meant more than they'd ever imagine. The humility and appreciation from every single airman, sailor, Marine, soldier, and base personnel who came to meet them was told through their laughter, their smiles, and the sheer volume of attendees.
"It means a lot to the airmen, the soldiers, the Marines, and the sailors who are in uniform to know that people outside the gate really care about what they do," Air Force* *Col. Marshall Irvin said. "A lot of them don't do it for the money and they don't do it for the notoriety – and they don't get a lot of money and they don't get a lot of notoriety. It's something in their hearts and souls that it wants to protect. We do what we do because that's just what we do."