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Former Chiefs LB Donnie Edwards discusses Best Defense Foundation, military veterans

The Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL have consistently supported the active military and veterans. Many players and coaches have strong ties through family, friends, and inspiration from the many who have sacrificed their lives for the United States of America.

Former Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards was known for his hard work on the football field for 13 seasons in the NFL. He has taken that mindset and utilized it to support military veterans.

Chiefs Wire’s Ed Easton Jr. spoke to Edwards about establishing the Best Defense Foundation and his reaction to being honored by the NFL with the Salute to Service award.

“I’ve always had an affinity for the military, having been born and raised here in San Diego. It’s a big military town. We have the big naval base and the Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. All of my family served in the military,” Edwards explained. “More importantly, my grandfather, Maximino Razo, is a Native American who served in the 25th Infantry Division and is a Pearl Harbor survivor. He’s the one who set the foundation for me here in this country; he always told me you can achieve anything in this country if you want to, you work hard, go after, it doesn’t matter where you come from, there’s tremendous opportunity in this country, and go after it.

“I never lost sight of that. [I am the] first one of my generation, out of 11 kids, to go on to college, let alone get a master’s degree from UCLA, and go on and play 13 years in the NFL. It changed my life tremendously; I’m just one small example of living the American dream. I realized that’s on the backs of the serving men and women, and I want to do my part, serve, give back, and say thank you. Thank you for giving this kid right here an opportunity to live the American dream.”

Edwards created the Best Defense Foundation in 2018 to honor and celebrate war veterans.

“I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff with the military over the years. I’ve done 11 USO tours around the world from Afghanistan to Okinawa, Djibouti, and Nigeria,” Edwards told Easton Jr. “I mean, all over Jordan, Turkey. Visiting our troops to tell them thank you, that we don’t forget about you, want to make sure that we can give a little piece of home back to them and talk football and talk Chiefs football and all that kind of good stuff.”

Said Edwards:

“Back in 2003, I was talking to some World War II veterans. This is when they’re in their early 80s. They spoke of returning to Normandy to their battlefield, and I said, ‘Really, do you want to go back?’ and they said, ‘Absolutely. I want to see what we did.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you go back?’ They said, ‘Oh, I’m too old. I don’t have the money.’ Then it came to me, and I was still playing football at the time. I said, ‘Well, let’s go, I’ll take you.’ So that’s how we started from a simple coffee conversation about returning to Normandy. With a few World War Two veterans, I think we took four or five World War Two veterans back in 2006. That was my first time taking veterans back. Then, it blossomed into this big program of having this incredible charter with Delta Airlines and supporting partners with Michelin and Boeing to help facilitate bringing 50 World War II veterans back to Normandy for the 80th anniversary. It just warms my heart to give our greatest generation this incredible opportunity of closure, camaraderie, and brotherhood.”

In 2019, Edwards was honored with the NFL’s Salute to Service Award, which recognizes his service and sacrifice in support of our military through partnerships, grants, and recognition of service members, veterans, and their families.

“This is really special. It’s a great reminder to service and, overall, the years of giving back to our military, and, of course, no one does it for the recognition at all; you do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Edwards said. “It’s always nice to be recognized for what you’ve done. This is a testament to all those that give back, to our military, because they’re the ones who give kids like me an opportunity to play football. There’s no playing football in America, and having a life that I have, that wasn’t for all of those that serve. So this is a reminder of people given to me and for me to give back to them. It’s a mutual relationship, and it’s truly an honor that I don’t take lightly.”

To learn more, visit the Best Defense Foundation’s website

Story originally appeared on Chiefs Wire