Rookie LB Khalil Mack poses for a photo with a pair of soldiers.
United States servicemen and women are some of the most avid sports fans. Wherever they are stationed around the world, they find time or make time to follow their favorite teams. The Raider Nation is certainly no exception.
Earlier this week, the Oakland Raiders held "Military Appreciation Day" in honor of the men and women who serve our country. Nearly 200 soldiers and their families were invited to watch practice as a way of commemorating their hard work and service.
Soldiers and their loved ones were able to watch practice, ask for autographs, and take photos with some of the players. Many of the service-people present were avid Raider fans.
Members of the military and invited guests attended the Raiders ninth practice on Military Appreciation Day.
Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Sal Reyes of the National Guard was extremely grateful for the experience. Reyes said, "It means a lot that the Raiders give us an opportunity to experience this on the field with the players, and show us their gratitude that they have for the military."
Sergeant James Hernandez of the National Guard agreed, remarking, "This is a great experience, I brought some family members that have been Raiders fans for years. For us to do stuff like this and for the Raiders organization to appreciate military and their family, I think it's a really good thing."
Some National Guardsman revealed that when overseas, Raiders fans bonded over their shared Silver and Black pride. Sergeant First Class Jessamyn Sobeckiengle, National Guard,* *described forming a "tight-knit community" with fellow Raiders fans in her unit and instantly becoming friends. While in Afghanistan in 2012, they would wake up in the middle of the night and head to the United Services Organization (USO) building to watch Raiders games.
A few military personnel compared some aspects of the Raiders training camp experience with military preparation. Sergeant First Class Jason Bennett, Marketing NCO of the California National Guard in the Recruiting Retention Battalion, noted some of the comparisons, "The dedication that it takes to be out here every day, and go through the rigors of practice, the pain and sweat, the soldiers are doing the same thing." He also mentioned the camaraderie on both the Raiders team and within a military unit, "Just watching the teamwork and how the team comes together, it's the same thing in the National Guard, we're one big team too," Bennett said.
The Oakland Raiders are proud to continue its partnership with the California National Guard. This second year of the relationship will include pregame integration of the Tunnel of Influence, Color Guard and High School Coach of the Week community program.