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Obama, Top Pentagon Officials Send Super Bowl Messages to Troops

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2009 – Deployed troops watching the Super Bowl game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals yesterday were greeted with messages from their new commander in chief and top Defense Department officials.

Instead of commercials, part of the content carried between downs on the American Forces Network were public service announcements recorded by President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“As we all take this time to watch the big game, I wanted to be sure to send all of our military men and women a special greeting,” the transcript of Obama’s salutation reads. “You are tuning in from all over the world. But no matter where you are and no matter which team you're rooting for, this event is bringing you a little closer to home.”

Obama, who recorded his video message last week during his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief, told troops that American events like the Super Bowl are possible only because of the sacrifice and duty paid by servicemembers and their families.

“I am honored to be your commander in chief, I thank you for your courage and sacrifice during these trying times, and I promise to do everything in my power to help you accomplish your mission,” he said. “You make us proud each and every day.”

Obama, who appeared clutching a football and without his suit jacket -- a “sign of solidarity” with Gates who was unable to wear a jacket due to bandaging on his injured left arm -- saw the message as “an incredible opportunity,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

“I think the president recognized this is a great platform, an incredible opportunity, in his early days on the job, to send the message to hundreds of thousands of troops deployed around the world,” he said. “This is everybody getting a rare break from work, huddled around a TV set watching the most popular program on television.”

Gates injected history and humor into his message that aired during breaks in the gridiron action between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, which he noted, used to be one team.

“During World War II, because so many men were serving overseas, the Chicago Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers actually merged for a season,” he said. “They were called the Card-Pitt Combine, and they went 0-10, earning a less-than-flattering nickname: ‘the carpets’ -- because everyone walked all over them.

“This game is a little more exciting. Wherever you are, I hope that you have a chance to kick back and relax for a few hours -- you have certainly earned it,” Gates said. “As always, I thank you for your service, and for the sacrifice you make every day in defense of our nation. Enjoy the game.”

Mullen thanked military men and women and their families for their service at this “critical time in our nation’s history.”

“I know many of you won’t be able to watch tonight’s game at home with your loved ones, but I also know you are proud of the work you are doing and the difference you are making,” Mullen said. “Whatever team you’re cheering for tonight, all of America is cheering for you.”

The Steelers won the Super Bowl in a close 27-23 victory over the Cardinals.

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Robert M. Gates
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

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