The Bucs and MacDill Air Force Base have forged a connection of mutual respect with recent visits
Young men and women with a job to do and the confidence and skill to get it done.
That's how MacDill Air Force Base Command Chief Master Sergeant Lew Monroe described those servicemen that have already left their South Tampa post to aid in the United States' military efforts in Afghanistan.
Though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' squad is all male, that same statement otherwise applies to the task ahead for the Bay area's NFL squad, though in an obviously less grave arena. Monroe saw the connection.
"They're doing one specific thing," said Monroe of those that have already been shipped out, "and that's defending your way of life so that all you have to do is concentrate on football and, particularly this week, Tennessee."
Ten Buccaneers – General Manager Rich McKay and players Ronde Barber, Jeff Christy, Russ Hochstein, Brad Johnson, John Lynch, Dave Moore, Shelton Quarles, Mark Royals and Karl Williams – met some of the departed servicemen and women before they left on September 18, when a trip down to MacDill was arranged one week after the terrorist attacks on the United States. The Bucs met hundreds of servicemen and women, shook hands, listened to stories and passed out hats and t-shirts.
On Friday, several dozen representatives from MacDill returned the favor, visiting the Bucs' afternoon practice and presenting Head Coach Tony Dungy and the team with a plaque reflecting the base's appreciation for the Bucs' earlier trip. Chief Monroe thanked the entire Bucs team for taking the time to support the military.
"A lot of you came out a week or so during some very tough times for the military and for MacDill in particular," he said. "You may never know the impact you had on those young men and women when you came out there, just shaking their hands, patting them on the back and telling them thank you.
"As a matter of fact, quite a few of those young men and women that you passed those shirts out to have already taken off to parts unknown in the world for one simple thing, to defend your way of life. They stand for the principles that this nation was made on, to keep you and the rest of us a free nation.
"They left with a few memories. One was the handshakes and the pats on the back that you gave them. And they left with the memory that you took time out of your busy schedules to come out and say thank you."
Dungy was unavailable for the initial trip but was moved by the emotional connection forged between the Bucs and the heroes at MacDill. Rather than dismiss his team and accept the plaque presentation off to the side of the field, Dungy invited the MacDill visitors into the Bucs' post-practice huddle and had the entire team stay for the presentation.
"I'm proud of our guys a lot, but that was something that really makes you proud," said Dungy of his players' eagerness to visit MacDill and offer support after the attacks.
"We had a bunch of guys that went out there two weeks ago and spent some time. You just never know what type of an impact an hour of your time is going to have on some people that are doing a really serious job right now. It was neat not only to see them come out and return the favor, but to know that our guys have done something special on a day off."