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Oct 29, 2009 9:58 AM by By Sgt. Michael L. Owens

Louisiana Guardsmen get surprise visit from NFL players

PINEVILLE, La. - Members of the Louisiana Army National Guard were greeted by four NFL players in a special visit during pre-deployment training at Camp Beauregard near Pineville, La., Oct. 23.

New Orleans Saints players Mark Brunell, Jonathan Goodwin, Zachary Strief and Jonathan Stinchcomb surprised members of the LANG's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team when they showed up on the M-16 rifle qualification range to meet the Soldiers who will deploy in January.

The players flew in Blackhawk helicopters provided by LANG's State Aviation Command from Armstrong International Airport to a landing zone near the rifle range where the 256th Soldiers were training. "I was kind of nervous because it was my first helicopter ride, but it is a great way to travel," said Stinchcomb.

"We are excited that you took the time out of your busy schedules to come here and spend some time with us," said Col. Jonathan T. Ball, commander of the 256th. "Most of us are big fans of the Saints, and we are honored to have you here."

After being introduced, the players were given a safety briefing, safety equipment and allowed on the range to fire a few shots at the pop-up targets.

"I feel like a big kid out here," said Goodwin.

Once the players finished firing, they talked to the Guardsmen and thanked them for their service, before signing autographs and giving out NFL memorabilia.

"We play a game for fun, but you guys have the real job," said Brunell. "You are the true heroes, and we are very appreciative of the service you give your country to keep us safe."

Before being flown back to New Orleans, the players were given a few tokens of appreciation by Ball, including an Army National Guard back pack, 256th coin and a framed certificate symbolizing that they are honorary members of the 256th.

"I had a great time out here," said Stinchcomb. "I will be talking about this for a very long time."

Photo by Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie

New Orleans Saints players Mark Brunell, Jonathan Goodwin, Zachary Strief and Jonathan Stinchcomb surprised members of the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during a surprise visit at Camp Beauregard near Pineville, La., Oct. 23. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie, Louisiana National Guard State Public Affairs Office)

Photo by Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie

Louisiana Army National Guardsmen Col. Jonathan T. Ball, commander of the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, gives a coin to New Orleans Saints player Mark Brunell during a surprise visit at Camp Beauregard near Pineville, La., Oct. 23. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie, Louisiana National Guard State Public Affairs Office)

Photo by Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie

New Orleans Saints player Jonathan Goodwin signs an autograph for a Soldier in the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during a surprise visit at CampBeauregard near Pineville, La., Oct. 23. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie, Louisiana National Guard State Public Affairs Office)

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