NFL: Vikings' Allen visits U.S. military troops abroad

Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen raises his helmet high above his head while the national anthem is played before every game. He said it's his own personal show of respect for the country and its military.

Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen raises his helmet high above his head while the national anthem is played before every game. He said it's his own personal show of respect for the country and its military.

"For me, that's probably the most selfless thing you can do is serve our country," he said.

A product of a military family, Allen has gained a better appreciation of those sacrifices this offseason after visiting U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf on a goodwill tour and also watching his younger brother graduate from Marine Corps boot camp this past weekend.

Allen's 19-year-old brother, Scot, was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near San Diego. Allen's grandfather, Ray Allen, also attended the ceremony. Ray Allen served in the Marines for 26 years before retiring as a captain.

Jared's calf-roping sack celebrations seem tame compared to the emotions he felt as he watched his brother salute his grandfather last weekend.


"I got to watch (Scot) walk across the parade deck," he said. "It was probably one of the proudest days of my life to be honest with you. To see the changes in him. I didn't really recognize him he's lost so much weight. He got promoted to private first class, graduated with merit. He did a good job. And he's excited about it. He's excited to serve his country."

Measure of commitment

Allen witnessed that measure of commitment up close in early March, when he was one of four players who took part in the NFL-USO Tour of U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf.

Joining Allen on the tour were Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr., New York Giants linebacker Danny Clark and St. Louis Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon.

The NFL has sent players overseas to visit military personnel and boost morale for more than 40 years. Allen said his group visited eight different bases in Kuwait and Iraq on their tour.

"It's the greatest thing I've ever done," he said. "It was awesome. It was phenomenal."

Allen said he was particularly impressed with the discipline and organization within the different bases. The best part of the trip, he said, was interacting with the soldiers. He became friends with a number of them and still exchanges e-mails with a few guys who were on his group's security detail.

Allen said he got to know those soldiers a little better as they waited out a nasty sandstorm that prevented them from traveling for a few days.


"It was cool because we got to spend time with the guys and hang out with them," he said. "We got to see them work in action and go from different platoons and see what different people are doing from (intelligence) to the MPs to just everybody. It was sweet. We got to see how they are living and hang out with them, joke with them. We had a blast over there. You realize a bad day over here is better than a good day over there."

The trip also allowed Allen to scope out things in the event his brother gets deployed after completing more training.

"I went over there to make sure everybody will take care of him," he joked. "Nah, I think he'll be all right."

Changed man

Allen said he left the Persian Gulf with a different impression than when he arrived.

"You get to go over there and see exactly what's going on," he said. "It's not nearly as bad as you envision. You hear on TV all this crazy stuff (about) soldiers killing soldiers, bombs going off. You get over there and that's obviously part of it because it's a war. They understand that. Guys are excited to be over there doing their job. They're facing life-or-death situations and they know that. They accept that challenge. And they're proud of what they're doing.

"For us to go over there and just tell them 'Thank you' and show them that no matter what people's beliefs are back home -- political, right, wrong or indifferent -- as human beings we support what you're doing. We thank you for a job that you're willing to do that we obviously weren't."

Allen became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history last season and is one of the most feared pass rushers in the league, but he admits he once thought about following family members in choosing a military career.


"I think about that a lot, especially since my little brother's going now," he said. "If I wasn't playing ball, I probably would have been in the Marines. I think that's what my family thought I was doing."

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