A contingent of Buccaneer players led by Vincent Jackson that also included Mark Barron, Leonard Johnson, Chris Owusu, Keith Tandy, Tiquan Underwood and Dekoda Watson was joined by Buccaneers Cheerleaders Tricia and Kari to meet and mingle with MacDill trips over pulled pork sandwiches and hotdogs. The barbecue was sponsored by USAA and made more enjoyable for the troops by the presence of the Bucs players.
“It’s all about getting out there and being a part of the social infrastructure of your community," said Gary Broadbent, Military Affairs Representative and former Command Chief Master Sergeant for the Air National Guard. "The Bucs do a great of that and USAA does a great job of that, so it’s a perfect partnering of USAA and the Bucs to come here and support the troops. They need it now more than ever."
USAA became the first-ever Official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the NFL in 2011, and its ties to the Bay area community extend beyond football. With more than 2,300 employees at its two Tampa campuses, it is also one of the largest employers in the area.
Tuesday’s appreciation event was the first of many to come this fall, and one that hit close to home for Jackson. The wide receiver, who was raised in a military family, kicked off his Salute to Reading program last week at three schools, one of which is Tinker Elementary, located on MacDill Air Force Base.
“I’m glad these guys come out here, especially some of our younger players, just so they can bring things back to reality as far as these guys out here, what they do on a daily basis, and the sacrifices they make that really put what we do in our job in perspective,” said Jackson.
It was a matter of mutual appreciation between the troops and the Bucs as they posed for photos, conversed over barbecue and autographed posters.
For Jackson, it was a thrill to be there and an even greater satisfaction to have his teammates share in in the experience.
“I always try to let these guys know that it’s about them; we’re not coming out here because we want the accolades of being Buccaneers. We’re coming out here because we want to show that the Buccaneers care about our military troops and what they do.”