TAMPA, Fla. — The NFL teamed up with the Bucs to give back to our nation’s heroes with a special visit to MacDill Air Force Base on Thursday in an effort to salute those who serve our country.
“Seeing what they’re able to do out there on the field is just impressive, and then to be here and meet them, it’s like a kid’s dream come true,” said Maj. Patrick Burke, a B1 pilot.
Servicemen and women were paid a visit from NFL legend Cris Carter, 2002 Bucs Super Bowl Champion Martin Gramatica, Bucs cheerleaders and Bucs mascot, Captain Fear.
“For them to come out here and be like little kids walking around one of these planes, it’s one of those weird feelings where I’m looking at them pointing and saying how cool they are, and they’re pointing up at the plane I fly and saying how cool it is,” said Maj. Burke.
The former NFL stars toured a B1 bomber and KC-135 tanker while getting a peek into life on base.
“We’re excited to meet them,” said Gramatica. “I don’t think they should be excited to meet us because what they do is a lot more important, a lot more valuable for our country than what we do.”
MacDill AFB is playing an important role in the Super Bowl. Their efforts are supporting national and local agencies responsible for providing safety and security of the airspace over Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl LV.
On top of hosting those agencies, MacDill will also carry out air refueling missions with Air Force Global Strike Command bomber aircraft, which will do a first-of-its-kind trifecta flyover during the National Anthem performance.
“We understand even though people say that we’re heroes, it’s different,” said Carter. “These are real heroes. We’re just role models.”
Service members say they were honored to meet the sports legends, while the former NFL stars expressed how pleased they were to say thank you.
“Growing up watching these legends on TV and watching their every move, and then now, having them come here and getting to explain to them what our moves are up in the air, I think it’s a real honor and a real blessing,” said Maj. Anthony Mascaro, Mission Training Center director for the 13th bomb squadron at Whiteman AFB.