THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The magnitude of Veterans Day was especially felt by Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley this year.
Sacrifices made by men and women serving in the military are what preserve freedoms like the right to vote, and lead to historic moments like last week which he discussed with players recently.
"A day like today, it makes me proud to just be an American," Staley said during a video conference Wednesday. "Last week, we have a female Vice President (elected). It's the first time in the history of this country, that we have a female vice president, since 1776. Now we have a female vice president of this country, a woman of color, an African American woman who just has an amazing story. I think it's such an amazing thing. I talked to the guys this week about it, we can all say in our lifetime that we had an African American President, female Vice President. Hopefully someday a female will be in the biggest office in the land."
Beyond the magnitude of the outcome of a presidential election, Staley also has an appreciation for today because of personal connections. Family members on both his and his wife's side of the family have been active in the military, as well as friends from high school.
"I think we all are associated with someone from the military that allows us to do what we do every day, and I don't think any of us truly understand the sacrifices and the commitment that all of those men and women make so that we can do what we love over here, and to be free, and live our dreams. It's amazing," Staley said. "And you can never minimize what a day like this means for so many people. So it's just amazing. And a day like today, it makes me proud to just be an American."
For Rams head coach Sean McVay, days like today and weeks like this week provide proper perspective.
"You talk about selflessness, being a part of something bigger than yourself and doing things that are really about everything that you try to want to epitomize with football, but this is way bigger than that, being Veterans Day, being able to honor and recognize, whether it's family members, friends, people that are close to you," McVay said. "I don't have anybody in my direct family that has been affected by that, but I know a lot of people that have been huge contributors, and the appreciation that I have is unbelievable. I get upset about a football game, but people that are really demonstrating that selflessness and being a part of something bigger than yourself, I think that's what it's all about. And it's a great day to be able to recognize those special individuals."
Quarterback Jared Goff said these occasions are good reminders about the sacrifice so many men and women make, risking their lives and leaving their families behind to serve our country.
"You try to think about this daily, and inevitably you don't," Goff said. "But today, on Veterans Day, you're able to actually really read stories and see people, talk to people, thank veterans and ask them about their service, and do all the things that you always want to do. But it's always a good reminder today."
What the Rams organization has planned for this week
As an organization, the Rams kicked off salute to service week with a fireside chat with Jake Wood, co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps on Monday. The next day, offensive lineman Austin Corbett and defensive lineman Morgan Fox teamed up to play EA Sports' Madden NFL video game against veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project on SoFi Stadium's video board.
Tomorrow, Rams cheerleaders and front office staff will work with Bob Hope USO to write personalized holiday cards of appreciation for active duty military members and veterans. Those cards will be received by them as they pass through Bob Hope USO and return home. Rams cheerleaders and front office staff will also assemble tailgate kits with Rams-branded items, gameday snacks, beverages, Jack in the Box coupons, and Ball Corp. aluminum cups on Thursday afternoon.
Through the team's continued partnership with Merging Vets & Players, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth – who was the team's nominee for the 10th annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA – and Director of Strength and Conditioning Justin Lovett on Thursday evening will lead a virtual workout for 50 military veterans, followed by a group discussion on transitioning from military to civilian life and life after football.
During Saturday's walkthrough practice, the Rams will honor 7 fallen service members and their families with cardboard cutouts of them at practice. At the conclusion of the practice, those Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) families will then get an opportunity to speak with Rams players via video conference.
The Rams' third annual Salute to Service Week will conclude with honors and recognition during Sunday's home game against the Seahawks, including:
- Displaying the names of 500 Season Ticket Members who are active duty military members or veterans on both sides of the videoboard during pregame. Those season ticket members will receive digital photos of the displayed names and a recorded "Thank You" video from a Rams player.
- Quatrail Tucker of the Army Recruiting Center in Inglewood performing the National Anthem.
- A special section of cardboard cutouts representing active military members, veterans and local veteran non-profit organizations. The section will also showcase an American Flag.
- Recognizing DJ Mal-Ski, who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and who works at Rams games and events, with a special message on the stadium videoboards during the game.
- Playing a video feature about Rams Legend and World War II veteran Jim Hardy, who passed away last year at the age of 96, on the videoboard during the game.