'Dre holds veterans in high regard

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EDITOR'S NOTE:

Below is an article on wide receiver Andre Johnson courtesy of NFLPlayers.com, the official website of the NFL Players Association.*

Andre Johnson doesn't remember the days all that well - only when he crosses paths with someone in military gear or soldier suits. In fact, he never really talked about it much with his own mother, Karen Johnson. She lived through it, and made it part of her life.

Johnson, an All-Pro wide receiver for the Houston Texans, was 5 or 6 years old when his mother served in the military. Maybe he was too young to understand.

"She would be gone for a while, and I would stay with my grandmother," Johnson recalled. "I really don't know the experiences of anything that she went through or anything like that. I never really talked to her about it."

Johnson also had an aunt and uncle who served in the military, but anything he learned about their experience was second-hand. They simply were not topics of discussion growing up.

"I never went and asked them about it because you don't know what they've been through and things like that, going through the military," he said. "So I've never asked."

To this day, Johnson doesn't know what role his mother played in the service.

What he does know is how fortunate he feels to live in a country where so many men and women have laid their lives on the line to defend the nation's freedom.

{QUOTE}"When I see those people walking through the airport (in uniform), the first thing you think about is, 'Man, these are the people that are going over there fighting for our country,'" Johnson said. "I don't know if there are words that can explain what they go through over there, you know, fighting. You only can imagine. You only can look at movies to imagine. When you see those people walking through the airport or when you just see them out, it makes you just want to go up to them and just say, 'Thank you' because when you think about it, they're putting their life on the line. You definitely have a lot of respect for them, for what they do."

The Texans organization fully embraces efforts of the military. At each home game, the team features someone in the stands who has returned from active duty, always to a loud, standing ovation. The Texans even dedicate a day to salute the military. This year, former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, both Texas natives, were on hand to salute a group of military veterans in an honorary ceremony.

Johnson was one of the many who spoke out in appreciation for the military on that day.

Growing up in Miami, Johnson's mother was one for discipline—a common military trait, no doubt. Johnson remembers a time when he was acting up at home, and it didn't sit well with his mom. She gave him a stern warning.

"My mom was like, 'If you don't get your act together, I'm gonna send you to the military,'" Johnson recalled with a chuckle. "That was something. I never wanted to do that. I can remember her saying that to me one day … that made me change whatever I was doing."

Whatever it was, he changed his ways. Now he is one of the NFL's best receivers, excelling at one of the toughest sports on its highest level. And while he never really wanted that military way of life for himself—fellow Texans wide receiver Glenn Martinez playfully chides him, "Sgt. Johnson"—it's hard to ignore the realities of those pressed into duty.

"I think the biggest thing is when you see the wounded soldiers," Johnson said. "That's the thing that affects me the most. You see guys come over there and their skin is burned or guys are missing an eye or leg or something like that, I mean, your heart goes out to them.

"Every time I see that, the first thing I say is, 'Man, I can't imagine what happened when he lost his limb.' It's something I definitely think about when I see those soldiers walking around."

Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who participates in a yearly run with the armed forces, brought in two men with military backgrounds to speak to the team.

"They actually showed a tape of how when they're over in other countries with the terrorists and a guy just walks out in a suit and gives a signal and a bomb just goes off," Johnson said. "When they showed us that tape, it put everything in perspective. You just say to yourself, 'Man, these people are going through this, making sure everything is okay over here.' It's just crazy. It's something …words can't describe."

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