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Browns players join forces with USO of Northern Ohio, give back to troops with care packages

Players help assemble care packages and deployment bags for the USO to send to troops. #give10

CLEVELAND -- Browns running back Duke Johnson Jr. and his teammates helped assemble care packages and deployment bags for military members stationed overseas. The running back hopes the small gesture goes a long way.

"This is a group of individuals who sacrifice, give the ultimate sacrifice for us," he said, "and something as simple as coming out here, talking to them, autographs, taking pictures, it's nothing to give our time for them."

Johnson, Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Danny Vitale, Isaiah Crowell, Brien Boddy-Calhoun, Rod Johnson, Mike Jordan, Darius Hillary, Spencer Drango, T.Y. McGill, CJ Smith, Myles Garrett and Tyrone Holmes joined the USO of Northern Ohio and volunteers from the Browns' front office staff and Elk & Elk on Tuesday as part of the team's Salute to Service month. Browns owner Dee Haslam and head coach Hue Jackson also met with servicewomen and servicemen in an effort to thank them for the sacrifices they've made in their careers.

"I think it's not only important for just us as an organization to do this but I think it's important for a lot of people to do whatever you can," Vitale said. "Everybody's got family and friends who serve, my best friend from college served as a Navy Seal for 10 years, I have friends from here who could be shipping out here soon, a cousin who was an infantry paratrooper in the Army who could be shipping out at some point, so I think it's important to give back to the people who sacrifice a lot for this country.

"What we do is really small," he continued. "We get to play a game for a living and those people put their lives on the line, those men and women are pretty incredible, so I think it's important to give back to them."

For more than 70 years, the USO of Northern Ohio has provided morale, recreation and social services to US Armed Forces personnel and their families through its programs and services. The USO — which has served as a private, civilian 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that receives no direct government funding since 1941 — reaches nearly 50,000 active duty, guard and reserve military and their families throughout a 29-county region.

"We play football and a lot of people look up to us but for us to be able to even do that it's the troops and those people serving overseas who might be away from their families for the holidays," Bitonio said, "so for me to take an hour or two out of my day to come out here and pack some care packages out here it's really nothing out of my time and hopefully it can brighten some people's days."

Through Browns Give Back, the Cleveland Browns are dedicated to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year.

Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.

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