Through the Browns’ Hats Off to Our Heroes program, the team hosted family members of military men and women currently serving overseas and also took part in a video game competition against the troops both in person and through a live remote feed.
As part of the Pro vs. GI Joe non-profit organization, the Browns connected with troops in Bagram, Afghanistan, Baghdad and Basra, Iraq, USO Kuwait, Fort Drum, New York and Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.
During the day, family members were able to reunite with their men and women overseas via multiple webcams.
“This event means a lot to me,” said three-time Pro Bowl left tackle
The event was especially meaningful for Thomas, who visited soldiers in the Middle East during the off-season as part of the USO Tour of NFL players.
“When I was sitting there playing video games against some of the guys that were over in Bagram Air Base at the USO Center, I remember standing there last March talking to some of the soldiers and signing autographs in the very spot they were sitting,” he said. “It definitely gives you a different perspective on things because you know a little bit, a sliver of what they have to go through and what they deal with on a day-to-day basis and you realize how difficult it is, so it’s nice that you could get their minds off of it and get a little piece to remember what home’s like.”
The idea to unite the military and professional athletes through video game competitions was the idea of Pro vs. GI Joe founder/president Greg Zinone. His wife, Addie, is a Staff Sergeant in the Army Reserves and did two tours of duty in Iraq.
“I’m not a military guy; I don’t know what goes on over there and she told me that when the guys have down time, they play a lot of video games,” Zinone said. “I played ball for West Virginia and know very well that right after practice, guys play video games. We put the two together, came up with Pro vs. GI Joe and we’ve been going pretty strong ever since.
“If you’re in the middle of Afghanistan doing what you’re doing, you need some time off,” he added. “To take that time off and have a professional athlete playing them in a video game, that’s really something special. The guys have a great time.”
In addition to Thomas, tight end
“It’s amazing; it’s a true blessing getting to come out here just having a good time with the friends, family and the troops,” Mitchell said. “Just looking around, it just gives you that warm feeling. I don’t really know how to describe it, but I had a great time.”
“We had a really good time visiting with the troops that were over here as well as overseas,” said Renee Harvey, Director of Community Outreach for the Browns. “This was a really spectacular, special day.”