Veterans Day Has Special Meaning for Mularkey, Titans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Mularkey didn't need anyone to remind him it's Veterans Day.

The Titans head coach was fully aware when the calendar flipped to November 11. Yet it's hardly the only day Mularkey thinks about the soldiers who've served in the military, and the sacrifices they've made for the country.

Mularkey is part of a military family.

His father, Jack, was in the Army, and served in World War II. A brother, Terry, served 20-plus years in the Army. And Mularkey's nephew, Jack, is in the Army Special Forces unit, a Green Beret captain who leads a 12-man team.

In recognition of Veterans Day, the Titans honor all of the U.S. Military men and women who have served our country. Thank you for your service! (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

It's why Mularkey's made sure his football team is influenced by those in the armed services.

"I've been around it my whole life," Mularkey said. "I know the training the soldiers go through. And what we do is minute, playing football. It is minuscule to what they do for us.

"I have so much appreciation for what they do for us and our country, and the sacrifices they make every day."

This week marks the Titans' Salute to Service game when the Green Bay Packers visit Nissan Stadium. Each year, the NFL and the NFL Players Association come together in honor of Veterans Day to celebrate and recognize members of the military as part of the league's Salute to Service.

The league's military appreciation efforts culminate in November with Salute to Service games honoring veterans, active-duty members and their families. On Sunday, there will be a special tribute before the game, and at halftime.

There's been a military presence around the Titans all season.

Brigadier Gen. Scott E. Brower from Fort Campbell talked to the team during training camp.

Mularkey's nephew and others in his Special Forces unit talked to the team before a game last month. In the hallway leading into the team's meeting room, a photo of Jack Mularkey's unit hangs on a wall, with the soldiers decked out in full gear, in Titans hats.

"I think it is important,'' Mularkey said. "General Brower talked to the team, and it had a huge impact on our team. The (Special Forces soldiers) talked about what they do, and how (the military and football) is not the same, but it is the same -- it is two teams both relying on each other and have each other's back.

"Their training is life and death, and our training is wins and losses, and that's the big difference."

Last week, the Titans held a walkthrough at the Marines training facility in San Diego.

"It was great,'' Mularkey said of the experience. "We had the chance to work out on their field and have a lot of the Marine families out to watch us. A number of the players and coaches went back in the afternoon to watch them put many of the young Marines through an obstacle course that you've seen on TV, but they got to see it up close and personal with the drill sergeants giving them a little bit of their own. It was pretty interesting, but when they came back, they said it would have been a great team function to see how these guys are trained for what they do and why they're as good as they are."

In addition to Mularkey, Titans players like Rishard Matthews, Antonio Andrews, Brian Schwenke and Tre McBride also grew up with a military background.

This week, they also talked about their appreciation for members of the military.

"We have to let them know they are appreciated,'' said Andrews, whose father, Olan Andrews II, serves in the U.S. Army. "The NFL gets to acknowledge them and show them we are thankful for everything they do. We are out here playing for them." Matthews' father, Andre, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps master sergeant. Matthews' half-brother Christopher Ruiz was killed in October 2015 while serving as a retired Marine working as a private defense contractor in Afghanistan. Ruiz served in the Marines for 10 years.

McBride's father, Douglas, is a U.S. Army Colonel who had two tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. Schwenke's father, Brian Sr. was a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) trainer in the Navy from 1990-2002.

"What has gone on in my family in the past, and remembering my brother and everything, it is definitely an important month, and I am glad we (honor the military)," Matthews said. "I think we should do it more often, and not just select few games or anything. I think it is very important to go out there and give back, and show love to the vets and current service members."

Mularkey will be decked out in the NFL's Salute to Service gear on Sunday. When he stands for national anthem, he'll once again pause and give thanks to those in the military.

It's always special moment for Mularkey, and for good reason. The Titans regularly line up on the team's sideline, side by side.

"It is paying respect to the flag that so many people have died for, and fight for still," Mularkey said. "And why we are standing there, there is somebody fighting somewhere. It is a small token total respect. … Guys don't have to stand like they do, they want to."

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