Five current and former NFL head coaches will launch a new tradition in June with the inaugural NFL-USO Coaches Tour in the Persian Gulf.
New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and former coaches Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden will travel to the Middle East to meet and greet servicemembers for several days.
The NFL and USO have organized overseas morale-building visits for more than 40 years. In 1966, the NFL teamed with the USO and became the first sports organization to send a group of players to Vietnam and other parts of Asia, demonstrating the league’s support for America’s troops.
"I have always had great respect for those who served," Coughlin said in a statement released by the league. "In my time, we had the draft. Today, these people who are in Iraq and Afghanistan are volunteers. To spend time with them is to be able to sense the intelligence and the passion of these people and to stand in admiration and awe of this combination."
Since 1966, NFL stars including Terry Bradshaw, Larry Csonka, Franco Harris, Howie Long, Don Meredith, Lynn Swann and Johnny Unitas have visited servicemembers on NFL-USO tours in such locations as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kuwait and Somalia. Last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined players on a USO trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, Jared Allen, Danny Clark, Larry Fitzgerald and Will Witherspoon spent 10 days traveling through Iraq and Kuwait visiting U.S. troops.
"I am really excited for this trip as I have a tremendous appreciation for our troops and greatly value how they protect our freedom each day," Cowher said in the statement. “Anything I can do to help inspire and thank our troops in anyway will be a tremendous honor for me."
Harbaugh echoed his fellow coaches' appreciation for U.S. troops.
"These soldiers allow us to live freely in our country," he said in the statement. “They keep the world safe. They sacrifice for us every day. If I can help these men and women in any way, however small it might be, I will."