An extended Veteran's Day
The Longhorns got the opportunity to extend their celebration of Veteran's Day this year by welcoming members of the 163rd MI Battalion from Ft. Hood to practice on Wednesday.
Fellow teachers and football fans Charlie Lokey, wife of defensive tackle Derek Lokey, and Brooke Lewis, the wife of Company Commander Nathan Lewis, were the catalysts that coordinated the soldiers' visit.
"It's a privilege for us to have our heroes that are out fighting for our country come and watch us practice," noted the senior tackle. "And I'm happy that I was able to be the vehicle to get them out here.
"I'm just honored that they wanted to come to practice because they're the real heroes," added Lokey
The feelings of admiration and support are reciprocal for the soldiers from Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Commander Lewis. "Getting to meet Mack Brown was incredible because he's a legend, and actually having him take the time out to come over and speak with us and talk to our soldiers has been great.
"You see those `America Supports You' commercials and ads and stuff like that where people stand up for a two-minute spot on TV and say they care, but it's another thing to actually do something above and beyond," added Lewis.
The soldiers, who returned from their 15-month deployment in Iraq about two weeks ago, showed their unwavering support for the Longhorns and The University of Texas even while stationed in Iraq.
"We were actually able to watch a lot of the Texas games in Iraq," Lewis said. " We flew a flag over Iraq on the Fourth of July last year as a commemoration and we presented Coach Brown with it today.
"It was just a great experience to see him, meet him and actually get to talk to him," added Lewis.
The experience was particularly special for some of the soldiers who are longtime Longhorn fans, like Texas native, First Sergeant Alex Stewart.
"Being from Texas I've always loved football, so this has been a great experience," said Stewart, whose parents are both alumni of UT.
The soldiers and players bonded with one another due to similarities between the two groups.
"Some of our soldiers are just 19 year-old kids, so this is unreal for them," said Lewis. "The rules in the army and for football players are so much stricter than for regular civilians, and just like a Texas football player who might not have much of personal life, people in the military have no personal life either."
The team was more than happy to entertain the soldiers, who will be returning to Iraq in 11 months, with an afternoon of excitement, football and photos.
"It's always an honor to have our service men and women visit us, especially those who are serving in the Middle East today," said Brown. "Because of what they are doing in their fight for freedom, it allows us to play a game."We appreciate them and salute them," added Brown.