Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be traveling to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq at the end of March as part of the NFL?s involvement with the USO. Roethlisberger will head there from March 29-April 7 and will visit with U.S. troops while there.
?I think it?s a great opportunity, maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity, for me to go over and show support for the troops who do so much,? said Roethlisberger of the USO Tour. ?What I do is so insignificant compared to what they do.
?Sometimes they are not appreciated enough. It?s an opportunity for myself and other NFL players to go over and show our support. I am representing my team and the rest of the NFL. I just want to go over and show support and show them that they have people behind them.?
One of the highlights of the trip will be the opening of the Pat Tillman Center, a USO facility in Afghanistan named for the former Arizona Cardinals standout turned Army Ranger who was killed in action during the conflict. The NFL funded the center and Roethlisberger is honored that he is going to be on hand for the opening of it.
?It will mean a lot. He is a hero to me,? said Roethlisberger of Tillman. ?He is a guy who gave up so much for this country. It is great that they are opening up this center named for him. It?s just a great opportunity that they asked me to go over and be a representative of the NFL.?
Roethlisberger has a lot of respect for Tillman, and even had his number 40 written on his shoes earlier in the season.
?To me he is a hero,? said Roethlisberger, who was at the team?s practice facility on Thursday. ?He is the most selfless person I know of for what he did for this country. He never wanted anything but what was best for his family and this country. To me that is unbelievable.
?I never got a chance to met him. I really wish I would have.?
Roethlisberger also looks forward to meeting some Steelers fans who are in the military who are deployed to the reason.
"The opportunity was brought up to me; they asked me if I'd be interested in doing it," said Roethlisberger. "I thought about it and said 'absolutely.'
"I know there's a lot of Steelers fans over there. It'll be great to see them and hopefully show support for them."
The only potential concern with the trip is security in the region, but Roethlisberger isn't worried and said that he will feel safe while there.
"I was talking to Mr. (Dan) Rooney about that," said Roethlisberger. "It doesn't worry me too much. Obviously, there's always a chance for danger anywhere you are, but you have the world's greatest military over there protecting you.
"I feel pretty safe."