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Tillman delivers Thanksgiving meals to sailors
December 2nd, 2013

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman spent part of his Thanksgiving Day showing his appreciation for members of the military at the Great Lakes Naval Station just outside North Chicago.

Joined by his wife Jackie and her father, Tillman delivered Thanksgiving meals to more than 20 sailors who couldn’t leave their posts and join their counterparts for dinner in the USO center.

“What Charles did was really special,” said Alison Ruble, president and CEO of USO Illinois. “In the past, we’ve just served a meal inside the facility. But this year we were talking to the commander on the base and he said there are some military that are not off on Thanksgiving.

“It’s a federal holiday, but there are some who have to man the posts. So Charles and Jackie went out and did a USO meals-on-wheels to military around the base who could not leave their duty stations. They delivered hot Thanksgiving meals and surprised them at their stations.”

Tillman enjoyed delivering the meals, but joked that he felt the sailors were happier to receive the food than meet him, even if he is a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.

“It was cool,” Tillman said. “I haven’t done a ton of stuff with the Navy. A lot of events I’ve done in the past have been with the Army, Marines and Air Force, but being that we have the privilege of [living] so close to the naval base, I felt it was only right.”

Tillman’s father, Army Sergeant Donald Tillman Jr., is retired from the military after two decades of service. Both of Jackie’s parents also served in the military.

“I think Charles and Jackie both coming from military families have a really special connection,” Ruble said. “Being military kids themselves, I know they understand what service members’ lives are like and sometimes the simplest gesture like spending part of your Thanksgiving here shows the service members that you appreciate their service.

“One of the most important things that we can do as Americans is to show our support for those who volunteer, sacrifice their time and potentially put themselves in great danger to protect a greater liberty, not only here at home but around the world. That’s a very noble thing and I know that Charles and Jackie understand that.”

Having grown up on Army bases in Kansas, California, Texas and Germany, Tillman has actively supported military causes since he joined the Bears in 2003.

Last February Tillman was presented with the NFL’s 2012 Salute to Service Award, which recognizes those who honor and support members of the military community. The award was given by USAA, the NFL’s official military appreciation sponsor. As part of the honor, USAA contributed $25,000 in Tillman’s name to the aid societies representing all five military branches.

In 2010, Tillman joined New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara on an eight-day USO tour to visit troops in Iraq and Kuwait. The two NFL players traveled to Camp Buehring and Camp Virginia in Kuwait, spent three nights in Baghdad and flew over Saddam Hussein’s former palace complex in a Black Hawk helicopter.

Tillman and O’Hara flew into Joint Base Balad in Iraq for a meet-and-greet with service members, signed photos and sports memorabilia, and had dinner with troops.

During the Bears’ bye week last season, Tillman returned home to Fort Hood in Texas to visit the Darnall Army Medical Center, donating a “Charles’ Locker” on behalf of his Cornerstone Foundation that was filled with iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, portable PlayStation game systems and other electronic handheld games to help patients pass the time during recovery and treatment.

Tillman also has conducted youth football camps at Fort Hood and other military bases.

During Pro Bowl festivities last season in Hawaii, Tillman and fellow NFL all-stars visited Schofield Army Barracks to greet wounded warriors who recently returned from an extended deployment in Afghanistan. The NFC and AFC squads also practiced at a Pearl Harbor military base in front of thousands of service members and their families.