The Redskins and USAA continued their "military moments" for 12 World War II veterans on Sunday with a special wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
The traditional changing of the guard ceremony took place Sunday morning at Arlington National Cemetery, just as it does every hour on the hour.
In attendance Sunday were the 12 World War II veterans who are part of the “Honor Guard” being hosted by the Washington Redskins and USAA as a part of their military moments leading up to Monday night’s Salute To Service game at FedExField.
After being welcomed at Reagan National Airport on Saturday, the veterans participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The wreath placed at the site commemorated their Honor Flight representing Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.
Also in attendance Sunday were Redskins Super Bowl XVII champions Mark Moseley and Rick “Doc” Walker. Both Moseley and Walker come from military families, giving the ceremony extra significance for them.
“My father was a Marine, and you understand the significance of what the military represents what it means,” said Walker, a former tight end-turned-radio host who lived on a military base with his family for 10 years. “Having been on base for so long and seen the terrific sacrifice, it’s an honor to be here and see how we represent those who gave their life for our country. It’s touching.”
While Moseley and Walker boast some impressive accolades between them — including their Super Bowl rings and league MVP honors for Moseley, the only kicker in NFL history achieve such honors — it was clear who the two former players consider to be their heroes.
“This is the final stop, this is where all the gladiators rest who gave up their life so a guy like myself could play a sport,” Walker said. “Those are true heroes. We’re talking about people how we anoint Super Bowl champions — these are world champions, and I mean world champions.”
For Moseley, who has family that served in World War II, the ceremony was particularly touching.
“It’s emotional, it really is,” he said. “It makes you sit down and take thought about our freedoms and our liberties that we have, that we take for granted everyday. It’s a real pleasure for me to have an opportunity to do something — it’s a small thing, but to them it’s big — and I’m just glad to have an opportunity to do it.”
Taking part in Sunday’s wreath laying was Dale “Doc” Nelson, who served as a Senior Chief Hospitalman in the U.S. Navy. Nelson’s time in the service saw him participate in the North African Campaign, the invasion of Sicily and the invasion Omaha Beach on D-Day.
The recipient of the Bronze Star and nine campaign ribbons was thrilled to be taking part in the honor flight.
“The receptions we’ve had going and coming have been out of this world. We feel so honored, it’s absolutely fabulous, I don’t have any other word for it other than fabulous,” Nelson said.
He added that “in all the years I’ve lived, I never thought that I would be honored and have such experiences” that include having the chance to take part in the sacred act of placing the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Also taking part in the ceremony was Ester Spring, who served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in the Pacific. Spring, the only woman on the honor flight, was overwhelmed with gratitude as she took in Arlington National Cemetery.
“I was born in a small town, and never thought I’d get this far,” she said. “I feel blessed. Lucky.”
Throughout the day, the 12 veterans reiterated how lucky they felt to have the chance to participate in the honor flight, thanks to the Redskins and USAA.
But, as Moseley and Walker put it, the real lucky ones are those who have the chance to recognize these individuals who served our country.
“It was an honor to be among the greatest warriors we’ve ever had,” Walker said.
The veterans’ time with the Redskins and USAA will continue with a trip to the World War II memorial and concludes with a celebration at the Redskins-Cowboys Monday Night Football game at FedExField, which falls on Pearl Harbor Day.