President Barack Obama walks with Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick prior to Thursday’s ceremony at the White House. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The chance to be feted at the White House and meet President Barack Obama was just one part of the Patriots trip to Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Another part of the trip is the annual journey to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, something the team did before the trip to Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a tradition the team began doing that after winning Super Bowl XXXVI.
“Look, those are the real heroes; those guys are out there fighting and dying for our country and protecting our freedom, so we all have a lot to be thankful for,” said coach Bill Belichick. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. They make what we do possible. There’s no way to express the gratitude that I feel for what they do.”
“That was a great experience,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski. “To see the soldiers that were in Afghanistan and Iraq, having a visit with them and a couple of the players, Mr. Kraft, coach Belichick, so that was a great experience too and put some perspective on how great we have it as athletes. It’s an honor meeting the President and all of the troops that we met at the Walter Reed Hospital too.”
“It was a great time, a tremendous time,” defensive end Chandler Jones said of the Reed visit. “Like coach said, those guys are the real heroes. I was shocked at how many Patriots fans were in there, those guys, Gronkowski and Edelman and Jones jerseys in there, not even knowing that we were coming. It gives you a different outlook on life, and I just want to thank those guys if they’re watching; they really are the true heroes.”
“It’s unbelievable to see these young men and women serving their country and going out there and seeing the things that you see there,” said wide receiver Julian Edelman. “It definitely puts life in perspective, and like coach said, those are the true heroes.”