Bears running back Matt Forte, cornerback Tim Jennings and former receiver Johnny Knox recently traveled half a world away to show their appreciation to U.S. troops.
The trio spent a week in Germany last month on a USO Illinois tour visiting military bases, hospitals and schools to thank the troops and their families for the sacrifices they make.
The players stayed in Dusseldorf, and were the featured guests at meet-and-greets and autograph sessions. They also made bedside visits to wounded warriors.
"It was a great experience just to go over there and put the pads and football aside and give thanks to the troops who put their lives on the line," Jennings said. "It was a great experience to go over there and show our appreciation. It was very rewarding.
"I have a brother who has been in the military for 20-plus years and to go over there and meet the troops who put their lives on the line for us means a lot. They think we're the heroes, but deep down I had to let them know, 'You guys are the heroes. This is your moment.' It was an honor for us to go over there and show our appreciation."
The players joined a group of wounded and recovering troops on a two-hour cruise on the Rhine River, followed by a traditional German meal at an historic 1400-era Wiesbaden Restaurant.
"Everywhere we went we put a smile on their faces," Knox said. "All of the troops over there are a long way from home, so when we went over there we basically brought part of home to them. For them to get a chance to see us and us to get a chance to see them, it was nice.
"When you're in the military you never know what's going to happen. They're warriors and they work hard. So it was fun going over there and spending some time with them."
Forte especially enjoyed meeting Bears fans everywhere he went.
"I saw a lot of [Brian] Urlacher jerseys, a lot of [Devin] Hester jerseys and I saw my jersey a couple times," Forte said. "There were a lot of Bears fans out there. It's crazy. It lets you know that it's not only in the United States, but there are Bears fans worldwide."