NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans players and cheerleaders delivered sincere thanks to veterans on Tuesday at the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Ryan Mouton and linebackers Tim Shaw and Patrick Bailey each partnered with two Titans Cheerleaders to sign autographs, pose for pictures and pass out team yearbooks, bumper stickers, posters and NFL "Salute to Service" ribbons.
The annual visit that is always scheduled near Veterans Day is one that players, cheerleaders and Titans staff members look forward to making each year because it offers an opportunity to express the gratitude that they have year-round for the sacrifices made by veterans and their families.
It was particularly special for McCourty, whose older brother Larry White served in Desert Storm. McCourty's father Calvin McCourty and uncle Dwayne Harrell are also veterans.
"It was awesome," McCourty said. "To be able to do an event like this and come see some of the guys that have given their heart and soul to our country for us and be able to recognize or notice some of that, it's nice to be able to give back.
"It was exciting for them to be happy to see us, and we were a little happier to be able to shake their hands and say, 'Thank you,' for what they've done," McCourty added. "They were a little happier to see the cheerleaders, I'm not going to lie, but it was just good to be able to talk to them and get a chance to listen to them."
Karl Hawkins, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and turned 29 Tuesday, said the visit provided a lift while he was undergoing a dialysis treatment. Hawkins is originally from Chicago but lives in Nashville now and is on the wait list for a kidney transplant.
"I appreciate it," Hawkins said. "Watching football and having fun can take you to a different place. It's great that they come and visit us."
Cheerleaders Angie, Anne P., Brooke, Jalanda, Jessi, Molly, Stephanie A., and Tiffany also enjoyed bringing smiles to patients' faces. Brooke, who grew up near Fort Campbell, Ky., said she looks forward to every opportunity to support the troops.
"I've (visited the VA hospital) several different years, and it really is one of my favorites because we really can come in and make some people's day, and that's just what we're here to do," Brooke said. "We're here to show our appreciation."
Tony Stevens, Assistant Chief of Voluntary Services for VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, said the visits boost morale and give patients something to look forward to each year.
"When the Titans visit for Veterans Day, it brings great joy to our veterans," Stevens said. "It is important that professional athletes to come and say, 'Thank you,' for sacrificing all that they sacrificed for our freedom."
Stevens said the VA benefits from volunteers who give their time and energy to helping out, and the VA is always in search of additional help. He said anyone interested in helping can contact Volunteer Services at (615) 873-7477.
"We have many positions that we need volunteers for within the facility," Stevens said. "We need volunteers for what we call customer service ambassadors to local van drivers to get our veterans to appointments in the local Nashville area."