The Kansas City Chiefs are taking on the Denver Broncos on Monday night in front of a national television audience, but this week's game is about much more than just the final score.
It's about the real heroes in our community.
Monday night's contest marks this year's Salute to Service game, where the Chiefs will once again honor our men and women in uniform both at home and abroad.
"The Chiefs organization has had a long and proud tradition of supporting the men and women of our armed forces, which is something that started with team Founder Lamar Hunt and continues to this day under Clark's leadership," said Chiefs President Mark Donovan. "The NFL's Salute to Service program, and all of the associated moments that our fans will see at Arrowhead, are another way for the organization to show appreciation for all that our military does for us."
The Chiefs have a storied history of supporting the military throughout the years, illustrated through numerous base visits, scholarships for Gold Star families, the annual Pros vs. GI Joes event and more than 50 years of supporting the Marine Corps Toys for Tots collection at a home game, the longest continuous relationship between Toys for Tots and an NFL franchise.
Pretty cool scene after practice today. pic.twitter.com/cc5tgdhsUY— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) August 16, 2017
The Chiefs have announced their Day 3 draft selections from Whiteman Air Force Base for the past two years, and have held an official Military Appreciation Day at training camp in each of the past five years.
As part of the Salute to Service game last season, Kansas City's players wore pregame warmups that featured the names of Gold Star families and their fallen loved ones, and the Chiefs employ an Army liaison every year through the service's Training with Industry Program, allotting the team the resources necessary to truly connect with our men and women in uniform.
It's a rich tradition that's as part of the Chiefs as football itself, and it will continue on Monday night.
The night will begin with a display of military vehicles at each corner of Arrowhead Stadium, courtesy of the Kansas National Guard. Once inside, fans will spot the Para Commandos from the U.S. Special Operations Command parachuting down from high above with the game ball in hand.
Chiefs players will wear special Salute to Service warmups prior to the game, each of which will bear a patch representing a local military unit and even some stationed abroad.
The sweatshirts will all be delivered to their respective units over the next several weeks.
As game time nears, the ceremonial "First Pass" will be thrown by Keara Torkelson, a native of Olathe, Kan. and a Purple Heart recipient from the Fort Hood, Texas shooting in 2009.
While tragic, the incident only strengthened her resolve in our Armed Forces.
"I've always loved what the military stood for," Torkelson said. "I joined because I wanted to serve my country. For me, resiliency started at a young age, and the people and circumstances along the way shaped me into who I am today."
Torkelson sustained injuries to her head and back in the shooting, but recovered and completed her service. She now volunteers her time to the Warriors Ascent program, which helps veterans overcome PTSD in the Kansas City area.
"It gives me a very fulfilling purpose," Torkelson said. "I want to live the Warriors Ascent logo, which has one soldier carrying another soldier. Sometimes you're able to carry, and sometimes you need to be carried."
Proceeds from the Hunt Family Foundation's 50/50 Raffle on Monday will benefit Warrior's Accent and its mission to help those that have sacrificed so much for our country.
Following Torkelson's pass, 100 military members and the 1st Infantry Division Mounted Color Guard will honor the 100th anniversary of World War I as Airman First Class Melissa Edgmon from the Scott Air Force Base's "Band of Middle America" sings our National Anthem.
The players will then run out of the tunnel behind the American flag and five flags representing each branch of the military.
During the game itself, a pair of Gold Star children will receive scholarships courtesy of Missouri Western State University, while Specialist Michael Liscomb, a wounded veteran, will be presented a "ruggedized wheelchair" from the Independence Fund.
Fans in attendance will also connect with local soldiers stationed around the world, as members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team 1st Infantry Division deployed to Operation Atlantic Resolve in Europe and the 35th Infantry Division from the Kansas and Missouri National Guard deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait will be featured on ArrowVision.
It will all culminate in what promises to be a special night at Arrowhead on Monday as the Chiefs honor the individuals that make our freedom a reality.