TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif --
The Oakland Raiders invited 30 Airmen from Travis Air Force Base, California, to attend their training camp in Napa, California. The Airmen were treated to a scrimmage between the Raiders and the Detroit Lions. After the scrimmage, several players and coaches from both teams signed autographs and took photos with the Airmen.
“Spending time and signing autographs is the least I can do for our heroes in uniform,” said Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders tight end. “I noticed during practice they were present and I wanted to show my appreciation afterwards.”
The invitation to the training camp is part the of the Raiders Community Days initiative that honors service members, first responders, and the United Service Organization Bay Area. For Staff Sgt. Christopher Spears, 60th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, the opportunity to see one of his favorite teams was a chance of a lifetime.
“The Raiders are my favorite American Football Conference team,” said Spears. “I thought it was a great token of appreciation by the Raiders to invite us, they seemed excited to have us out there, and it was a first class event.”
Honoring our veterans is a great way to build relationships between the community and the military. Tech. Sgt. Scott Appleby, 9th Air Refueling Squadron flight engineer, was thankful for the invitation.
“I want to personally thank the Raiders for inviting us to training camp today,” said Appleby. “Not only did we get to see them, we had an opportunity to see the Lions as well.”
Along with the Airmen from Travis, the Raiders invited over 100 other military members from different services from the surrounding area. The military presence did not go unnoticed from the players on the field. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders quarterback, has a great appreciation for those who serve.
“It’s amazing, I say it all the time, they’re the real heroes,” said Carr. “The military are the ones who fight for our freedom and we get to play a game for fun because of it.”
Another aspect of the Raiders Community Day included several Raiders alumni visiting former service members at the Veterans Home of California Yountville, Napa Valley, California. The Raiders alumni have been visiting the veteran’s home since 2001, which houses approximately 1,000 veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The former players spent time signing autographs, handing out memorabilia and listening to the veteran’s tell their stories. For one Raider alumni, the visit hits close to home. Bob Rosensteil, former Raiders tight end, lives in the area and has visited the veteran’s home on several occasions.
“I was asked today to come here and I jumped at the chance to do it,” said Rosenstiel. “I’m a resident of Napa Valley, so I appreciate what this veteran’s home and the vets living here mean to our community.”
Another Raiders alumni found the visit to be inspirational. Jerry Robinson, former Raiders linebacker said his first visit definitely won’t be his last.
“I’m just glad I’m here, I’ve never been here before,” said Robinson. “I will continue to come back because I love and respect what these veterans have done for me and my family.”
Since the Raiders play in close proximity to the home, many of the veterans are or have become Raiders fans over the years. Keith Gestring, a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant. has been a Raider fan since their inception.
“I’ve been a Raiders fan since their first season in 1960,” said Gestring. “For them to take time to come here and bring a smile to our faces means so much for us.”
Gestring is well aware that the Raiders will be leaving the area for Las Vegas, Nevada in the next year or two. He’s hoping that doesn’t mean an end to the annual visit. Either way, he’s appreciative of the support the Raiders have shown military veterans.
“They have been coming here for almost two decades,” said Gestring. “They have a great appreciation for both past and present veterans.”