Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Washington Redskins opened up their home to area veterans Saturday, offering free health screenings to recognize their service protecting the country and to encourage them to protect their health.

Three days before Veterans Day, the Men’s Health Network and 13 other organizations provided screenings and health education to male and female veterans in the players’ locker room at FedEx Field in Landover.

Several hundred veterans were screened for cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, blood pressure and prostate problems. They also were given a tour of the facility.

The event also featured the famed Hogettes and the Washington Redskins cheerleaders.

“We’re encouraging veterans to take a proactive approach to their health, to help them live longer and feel better,” said Howard K. Thomas, vice president of GlaxoSmith Kline, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and a key contributor to the event.

Retired Lt. Col. Canning Kraft, an intelligence officer in Germany, South Korea and Cuba until retiring in 2004, said he came to see the locker room as well as get information on a throat ailment.

“I think it’s great that everything here is free. I’ve been a life member of the VFW, and it’s very nice to see the Redskins opening their home to us,” he said.

Former Army Air Force Sgt. Chester Plummer, 85, was discharged from his unit in August 1945, just after the end of World War II in Europe. Sgt. Plummer served at Camp Upton in New York City, helping train men who eventually went into combat in North Africa, Germany and Asia. He said he came Saturday to get his blood pressure screened

“This is a fantastic event. It’s great to see the Redskins do something like this for us,” he said.

Although the Men’s Health Network has had similar events in the past, this is the first time it has teamed up with the Redskins.

“This has been a very exciting event and it’s been a blast for everyone involved,” said Scott Williams, a Men’s Health Network spokesman.

The veterans clearly enjoyed visiting their favorite football team’s locker room (the Skins have a bye this week) while getting important health information at the same time.

Retired Lt. Cmdr. Bill Smith, 66, who served in the Navy Security Group for 24 years, came to FedEx Field for a blood work-up.

“It’s sort of like killing two birds with one stone, you get to see all the Redskins stuff you want while at the same time taking care of your health; it’s a pretty good deal,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Tom Landwermeyer, a veteran of 32 years in the U.S. Army, came with his two sons to get screened for cholesterol and glucose problems.Gen. Landwermeyer served with the 3rd Army Division during the Gulf War in 1991, and is still on active duty.

“It’s great to reach out to veterans. Once you get out of the service it’s not as easy to get health care, so to have something like this is very helpful,” he said.

Martin Wiseman, spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said that while older veterans are typically those who attend such events, he said he was encouraged to also see younger veterans there, too.

“A lot of times younger veterans see the words VA and health care and they don’t connect the two, so events like these are great outreach for younger vets,” he said.

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