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Oakland Raiders honor past and present veterans

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders cornerback Nick Nelson signs autographs for Airmen from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., after his practice in Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. The Raiders invited Travis Airmen to attend camp and were treated to a scrimmage between the Raiders and Detroit Lions and a meet and greet autograph session with players and coaches from both teams. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

Raiders Alumni player Jerry Robinson signs an autograph for a veteran during his visit to the Veterans Home of California Yountville, Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. The Raiders Alumni have been visiting the veteran’s home since 2001 which houses some 1,000 aged or disabled veterans (both men and women) or World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr throws a pass during practice at their training facility in Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. The Raiders invited Travis Air Force Base Airmen to attend camp and were treated to a scrimmage between the Raiders and Detroit Lions and a meet and greet autograph session with players and coaches from both teams. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

Airmen from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., attend the Oakland Raiders training camp in Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. Travis Airmen were treated to a scrimmage between the Raiders and Detroit Lions and a meet and greet autograph session with players and coaches from both teams. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia receives a patch from U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Engle, 22nd Airlift Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., after their practice in Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. The Oakland Raiders invited Travis Airmen to attend camp and were treated to a scrimmage between the Raiders and Lions and a meet and greet autograph session with players and coaches from both teams. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

From left, Raiders Alumni Vance Mueller, U.S. Air Force Veteran Keith Gestring, Raiders Alumni Jerry Robinson, and Raiders Alumni Bob Rosenstiel pose for a photo during a visit to Veterans Home of California Yountville, Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. Gestring has been a Raiders fan since their first season in 1960. The Raiders Alumni have been visiting the veteran’s home since 2001 which houses some 1,000 aged or disabled veterans (both men and women) or World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

Veterans proudly show off their autographed hats from players of the Raiders Alumni at the Veterans Home of California Yountville, Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. The Raiders Alumni have been visiting the veteran’s home since 2001 which houses some 1,000 aged or disabled veterans (both men and women) or World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook poses for a photo with Airmen from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., after his practice in Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. The Raiders invited Travis Airmen to attend camp and were treated to a scrimmage between the Raiders and Detroit Lions and a meet and greet autograph session with players and coaches from both teams. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook poses for a photo with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Engle, 22nd Airlift Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., after his practice in Napa Valley, Calif., August 7, 2018. The Raiders invited Travis Airmen to attend camp and were treated to a scrimmage between the Raiders and Detroit Lions and a meet and greet autograph session with players and coaches from both teams. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

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.”

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