Marines and Chargers alike continued an uplifting tradition Wednesday as MCAS Miramar opened up a practice field to the NFL team before the season officials kicks off.
The team, including quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Ryan Mathews, joined the Charger Girls spent the day before their last preseason game at the Marine base, signing autographs and taking pictures with service members and families.
Antonio Gates has been to this practice on base for over the last 12 years.
“We are very privileged very honored to be out here and saying thank you,” Gates. “This is our way of saying thank you for what they do and how they support and provide for our country.”
“A lot of our biggest fans in the community are here, and we are their biggest fans. It's turned into a great tradition” said Rivers.
The Marines there say the annual game boosts morale and keeps them connected to the community.
“As much as we like to think we give to the community, having the Chargers come out here is a great note of thanks to all the military service members. We really appreciate it,” said Lt. Col. Brian Grana.
Family members and base employees donned their best Bolts gear to meet their favorite players.
When asked, several kids said Antonio Gates was at the top of their list.
Gates’ reaction? “To see a child, or a teenager for that matter, say, ‘Wow you’re my hero. I look up to you,’ I try to set an example and show them that this is something that I’ve always dreamed of and I want to give back,” said the tight end.
The Marines presented Chargers coaches with cool flight jackets, and the Chargers presented the leadership at the base with helmets at the event.
“We are very fortunate to be part of the NFL and live the lives we do but we can’t do it without the men and woman that serve our country,” said Coach Mike McCoy.
The Bolts take on the Arizona Chargers Thursday at 7 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium.