In a rare moment off the training camp football fields, several members of the Vikings spent time visiting hundreds of Minnesota troops who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, tackle Phil Loadholt and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer surprised men and women attending the “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” event on the campus of Minnesota State University Saturday morning.
Allen, Loadholt and Priefer all have deep connections to service. Loadholt’s father was a career United States Army Sergeant 1st class, and “Big Phil” has long been involved with visiting troops at the United States Army recruiting station. Allen’s brother is a United States Marine, following in the footsteps of the Allen’s grandfather, who also served for more than 20 years. Allen is a long-time supporter of veterans; in 2010, he founded “Homes for Wounded Warriors,” a charity that provides handicap-accessible homes for veterans returning from duty. He also took part in the NFL’s USO tour to Iraq in March 2009.
Priefer’s involvement goes beyond support. After playing quarterback and wide receiver at the United States Naval Academy, Priefer flew helicopters as a Naval officer for six years, doing tours of duty on the USS America in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.
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