On the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Washington Redskins honored first responders and former NFL players who served in the armed forces with exhibits at FedEx Field.
Outside the stadium, there is a wax display of firefighters raising an American flag at Ground Zero. The depiction of the iconic image from Sept. 11, 2001, was provided to the Redskins by Madame Tussauds wax museum.
In the stadium is an exhibit from the Pro Football Hall of Fame detailing the history of NFL players who fought in World War II and the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East.
“A lot of people don’t realize, but there was more than 1,200 NFL players who either delayed their careers or interrupted their careers to serve during war,” said Joe Horrigan, vice president for exhibits at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. “There was three that won the Congressional Medal of Honor, 21 who lost their life during World War II, two in Vietnam and of course Pat Tillman in the Middle East.”
Former Redskins coach Ray Flaherty was among those who served in World War II. Flaherty coached Washington from 1937 to ‘42, winning two NFL titles.
The New York Giants, whom the Redskins are playing this afternoon, were represented as well. Al Blozis, who was an all-American shotputter at Georgetown, was killed in World War II six weeks after starting at tackle for the Giants in the 1944 NFL championship game.
Then there’s Tom Landry, inducted into the Hall of Fame as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys but who first was the Giants defensive coordinator and is credited for the 4-3 defense. At 19, Landry volunteered for the Army Air Corps when he was a freshman at the University of Texas.
From 1944 to ‘45, Landry flew 30 missions as a co-pilot on a B-17 Flying Fortress, surviving a crash in Belgium. Former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, who played for Landry for 10 years, served in Vietnam before playing professional football and after graduating from the Naval Academy, where he won the Heisman Trophy.
Among the most affecting tributes was in honor of Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire in April 2004 while serving in the Army Rangers. Tillman had left the Arizona Cardinals for the military in the wake of 9/11, and while he was in Eastern Afghanistan, his unit was ambushed.
“When 9/11 came, we were in the midst of creating an exhibit chronicling the story [of NFL players who served],” Horrigan said. “Of course it became something people wanted to know more about.”