WWE began Tribute to the Troops in 2003 as a way to honor our servicemen and women and their families. This year, in coordination with the USO, the company sent its stars to visit with each branch of the military, before performing for their annual show at the Verizon Center.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was the helicopter tour on UH-1N Hueys. Before boarding were all handed ear plugs, an airsickness bag and a custom token from the pilot organizing the tour. We were divided into groups and put on three helicopters and the WWE superstars joked about who might be the first person to have to use their air sickness bag. Dean Ambrose and Renee Young were on my chopper, which was manned by the 1st Helicopter Squadron crew (Aircraft Commander Captain Chris Mitchell, Co-Pilot Captain Vann Neal, Flight Engineer Technical Sergeant Craig Neeley).
The helicopters took off quickly and zipped around Washington, D.C. only a few hundred feet off the ground. Our Air Force guides pointed out all the national monuments, White House, U.S. Capitol and other points of interest.
"For me being able to spend the day with our troops just reminded me of how lucky I am," Young said. "It was such an amazing experience with the most amazing humans. We got to have so many unique experiences -- like seeing the White House for the first time in a helicopter flying over the most restricted airspace in the world. I'm so thankful for the troops and everything they do for us!"
The WWE Superstars sat quietly throughout the duration of the trip, completely engaged in the once in a lifetime tour. After we landed, the wrestlers gathered again on the tarmac and reflected on the experience. After the helicopter ride, the superstars went to a meet and greet filled with military members and their families.
"Our meet and greet was awesome because we got to meet the servicemen and women and some of their families," Young said. "To be able to see them, and be welcomed onto their base with such open arms made the experience really amazing. It's one thing to get to see shooting simulators, and attack dogs and helicopter rides, but none of that would be possible without these people that have dedicated their lives for us. It was my first time getting to be on the base for Tribute to the Troops and now I totally understand why so many of the superstars say it's one of the best experiences of our jobs."
Here are some of the highlights from the day, which included time spent at NSA Bethesda, in the helicopter and at the WWE Tribute to the Troops show on Tuesday: