The Atlanta Falcons have a special trip planned.
The team announced Tuesday that it will send head coach Dan Quinn, AMB Group CEO Steve Cannon (a West Point graduate) and three players — kicker Matt Bryant, guard Ben Garland and center Alex Mack — to Iraq as part of a USO tour to three military bases.
Atlanta is the NFL’s only team that has decided to take its own USO tour. The team is doing so to support the 52nd anniversary of the league’s partnership with the USO.
“We are fired up to have this rare opportunity to show our appreciation for our troops and spend time with them during their deployment,” Quinn said. “We have so much respect for what these men and women do every single day, and I think this is a great opportunity to show our gratitude to all the members of our armed services at these bases.”
Added USO senior vice president of entertainment Lorie Hennessey: “The USO has a 52-year history of working with the NFL and its teams to support service members and their families. We’re excited to work this year with the Atlanta Falcons to keep our service members in Iraq connected to family, home, and country.”
Garland is one of two active NFL players from the Air Force
Garland played collegiately at the Air Force Academy and signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2010. However, due to his two-year military commitment, he could not officially join the team until 2012. At that point, he was signed to the Broncos’ practice squad and later worked his way up to the active roster in 2014.
Garland signed with Atlanta’s practice squad in 2015 and was promoted to the active roster later that year. In 2017, Garland made the first starts of his career in three games at left guard. He was the Falcons’ Man of the Year award recipient in 2017.
Garland, one of two Air Force grads in the NFL (along with New Orleans Saints tight end Garrett Griffin) actively serves in the Colorado Air National Guard.
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