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FOX to host Sunday's NFL pregame shows from Ft. Benning

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Viewers will watch FOX NFL Sunday and FOX NFL Kickoff conduct their shows Sunday from Ft. Benning in Georgia. However, they will see only a fraction of what occurs for the crews during their Veterans Day tribute broadcasts from the U.S. Army installation.

"For us, it is much more than just doing a show from a (military installation)," said FOX NFL Sunday host Curt Menefee.

Indeed, this is an entire weekend experience for the teams of FOX's pregame shows: FOX NFL Kickoff airs at 11 a.m. ET followed by FOX NFL Sunday at noon ET. Everyone arrives on Saturday and literally tries to immerse themselves into engaging as many of the military personnel as possible.

Menefee says he always loves to see the surprised reaction from a group of troops when they turn a corner and all of sudden encounter Terry Bradshaw. Excitedly, they then scramble when the Hall of Fame quarterback says to get a football so he can throw some passes to them.

"This is not a drop-in, drop-out," Menefee said. "We spend all day Saturday with the troops. We meet with them, play football with them. They like to show us their toys. We try to keep Terry away from the dangerous stuff."

Menefee added, "It's a great experience for them. And it's a great experience for us."

Sunday's shows continues a longstanding tradition of FOX NFL Sunday broadcasting from a military installation on the holiday weekend, while it marks FOX NFL Kickoff second military remote. Fort Benning also provided the backdrop for FOX NFL Sunday on Veterans Day weekend in 2014. Historically, FOX Sports has saluted the troops from Naval Station Norfolk (2017), Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (2015), Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan (2009), and the USS Harry S. Truman in the Mediterranean Sea (2000), among multiple other locations.

"People talk so often of supporting the troops," Menefee said. "This is our way of supporting the troops. It's our way of saying thank you and trying to give them some relief. I'm not saying we're Bob Hope. It's just a chance to give people who are under considerable stress a few moments of fun."

Not surprisingly, Menefee said the most memorable trip was to Afghanistan in 2009. They had a great show, offering a group of troops "a sense of normalcy" in a difficult situation. Menefee recalled everyone was extremely upbeat while waiting for their transport out of the base.

Then reality hit -- hard.

A soldier had been killed in battle that day, and the FOX crew would be on the same plane returning his body back to his parents in the United States.

"We were 10 feet from his flag-draped coffin," Menefee said. "We all had a high from doing the show that day. Then you see this. That reminded you this is not a game. This is life and death for those guys."

That memory also underscores the importance of the FOX shows providing the troops "a need to escape" for a few hours. Menefee says performing in front of the live audience delivers that sense of connection for everyone, including for the viewers tuning in at home.

"You get so much energy from being around these people," Menefee said. "It makes us understand that there is a reason for us being there, and there's a reason for them being there."

Giving back: The military connection runs deep for FOX's Jay Glazer and Mike Pereira. Both have charity operations that aid veterans.

Glazer's MVP Foundation seeks to match up combat veterans and former professional athletes together -- after the uniform comes off -- to give them a new team to tackle the transition together. By merging vets and players, they create an environment where these veterans can share each other's strength and experience, and can support each other in building fulfilling lives.

Founded in 2017 by Pereira, FOX Sports rules analyst, Battlefields2Ballfields is a non-profit organization that assists male and female military veterans transition from active duty into the athletic officiating world. In just over 18 months, Battlefields2Ballfields has awarded more than 150 scholarships to aspiring officials nationwide in football, basketball, baseball, softball and soccer, among others.

"Serving in the military, and in officiating, there is the common bond of being a member of a team and making order out of chaos," Pereira says. "Our ultimate goal will be to get some of our returning veterans into the upper levels of officiating, including the professional ranks."

Coach Cowher: CBS' The NFL Today also pays tribute to Veterans Day on Sunday with a special "Coach Me Cowher" feature. Bill Cowher "returns to coaching" for the sixth consecutive year by traveling 50 miles north of San Diego to Camp Pendleton -- the largest Marine Corps Base in the United States. For decades, it also has been the home to an eight-team tackle football league, where marine units are pitted against one another in the most competitive yet respectful fashion. Cowher provides an inside look into the men who roster this unique league.

Cowher's life: Cowher is the subject of the latest edition of A Football Life, Friday at 8 p.m. on NFL Network. The film examines Cowher's roots in coaching, working as an assistant with Marty Schotenheimer and his successful run as coach of his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.

Said Jerome Bettis of Cowher: "He was like a psychologist in terms of understanding who he needed to push, who he needed to put his arm around, who he needed to get in their face. He was honest. He told you where you stood. That's all you ever wanted from a coach."

Announcing lineup: NFL Network has set its broadcast teams for the four NFL Network Special matchups in Week 15 and 16 of this season. Menefee, Nate Burleson and Steve Mariucci, along with Melissa Stark on the sidelines, will broadcast two games on NFL Network, beginning with the Week 15 matchup between the Houston Texans and New York Jets on Saturday, December 15. In Week 16, Menefee, Burleson, Mariucci and Stark will broadcast the Washington Redskins-Tennessee Titans game on Saturday, December 22. Kickoff for both games is at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Mike Tirico and Kurt Warner, along with Peter Schrager on the sidelines, will broadcast the Cleveland Browns-Denver Broncos Week 15 game on Saturday, December 15 and the Baltimore Ravens-Los Angeles Chargers Week 16 game on Saturday, December 22. Kickoff for both games is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

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