NFL players, commissioner salute injured troops at Landstuhl
May 29, 2006
LANDSTUHL, Germany — Marine Sgt. Robert Lismore beamed as he stood in a hospital gown next to New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and posed for a picture.
But Lismore, nursing a kidney infection from a deployment in Iraq, wasn’t excited about taking the photo for his own scrapbook.
He isn’t a Giants fan. His mother is.
“Aw man, my mom is going to love this picture,” said Lismore, who is assigned to Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 in Pensacola, Fla. “Wait ’til I tell her. She’s a die-hard Giants fan.”
A group of NFL stars past and present visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Sunday after attending the NFL Europe’s World Bowl XIV in Dusseldorf on Saturday.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, along with Strahan, Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes and NFL Players’ Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw signed autographs and shook hands with dozens of patients and staff members.
Strahan, whose father is a retired Army major, grew up in nearby Mannheim when his family was stationed in Germany from 1980 to 1985. Strahan holds the NFL single-season sack record with 22½.
“I loved growing up here,” he said. “I definitely understand the military way of life. It was my way of life growing up … I can’t think of anything greater that you can do as a human being and more unselfish than serving your country. So, I’m very appreciative. I know the NFL is, that’s why we come over here.”
The group visited patients in the intensive care unit and signed autographs for fans at the hospital’s dining facility.
Lt. Col. Michael Neary, a podiatrist at the hospital, brought his family to see the players and wore an Eagles button-down shirt. He got the chance to talk to his favorite team’s free safety, Dawkins.
This isn’t the first time NFL players have visited the hospital. Since 2002, about a dozen former and current players have gone to the hospital to cheer up patients and greet hospital staff.
Tagliabue, who is retiring after 17 years as commissioner, has made several trips to Landstuhl. Walt Murren, vice president of operations for the United Services Organization, formally thanked Tagliabue for the NFL’s support throughout his tenure as the league’s commissioner.
“Every time I come and bring players with me, it just motivates us to come back,” Tagliabue said. “We need men and women who were wounded in combat and who are making incredible sacrifices, and also we need the staff here who are working under such incredible pressures.”