Tillman supports USO Illinois with visit
December 4th, 2013
A sailor who happens to be an avid Bears fan, Murphy Justinak was thrilled to meet Charles Tillman when the Pro Bowl cornerback visited the Great Lakes Naval Station on Thanksgiving.
“It was amazing,” Justinak said. “I’ve been watching Charles Tillman for a long time. I’ve been a Bears fan all my life and I find his ‘Peanut Punch’ very entertaining. It was just incredible.
“That’s the first NFL player I’ve ever met and it happened to be Peanut, who I think is the best cornerback in the NFL. I may be a little bit biased, but he is very good nevertheless.”
Tillman and his wife Jackie delivered Thanksgiving meals to sailors who couldn’t leave their posts as part of a “meals on wheels” visit coordinated by USO Illinois. The mission of the organization is to enhance the quality of life of the U.S. Armed Forces personnel and their families and to create a cooperative relationship between U.S. military communities and civilians who support them.
Since 1941, the USO has served as a private, non-profit organization. It receives no government funding and is not part of the U.S. government, but it’s recognized by the Department of Defense, Congress and the President of the United States, who serves as the USO’s honorary chairman.
“We are not part of the military, but we’re here to be that home away from home for service members,” said Alison Ruble, president and CEO of USO Illinois. “We take care of the person inside the uniform. We work very closely with the military inside the base.”
USO Illinois impacts over 300,000 active duty, guard and reserve military families throughout the state. The organization provides over 300 programs and services that enhance the quality of the service members’ lives, which raises morale.
The USO Illinois facility at Great Lakes that Tillman visited features computers, free WI-FI access, big screen TVs, pool tables, table tennis, Xbox and Wii gaming systems and a full kitchen stocked with snacks and beverages.
“Every USO center is meant to be a place of respite, a place of resource and recreation,” Ruble said. “These service members are missing home. They’re missing that human touch. This center is a place where they can just kick up their feet and feel like they’re closer to home.”
Charles and Jackie both no doubt felt closer to home at Great Lakes as well. His father, Army Sergeant Donald Tillman Jr., is retired from the military after two decades of service, while both of her parents also served in the military.
“I think being from military families, they get what the troops are going through, and to be able to come here and serve them on Thanksgiving, that’s just a great way to give back,” said Chris Miller, director of center operations and volunteer services for USO Illinois.
“It’s really good because I think [service members] see Charles as a role model. This is someone who came from a military family, aspired to be something and now he’s a pro football player. So I think when they see him and other celebrities or sports heroes, they really appreciate that.”
No one appreciated the visit more than Justinak, the lifelong Bears fan.
“It’s great that [Tillman] takes time out of his day and time with his family to come spend time with sailors,” Justinak said. “It just makes me like him that much more. He’s a great guy and it says a lot about him.”