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FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- More than 20 Airmen from Joint Base Andrews were served lunch by members of the NBA's Washington Wizards at a downtown steakhouse in Washington Oct. 22.
The Airmen were invited as a part of the Wizards' 3rd Annual Salute to the Stars. This year, the focus was recognizing service and family members who are caregivers for wounded warriors as part of the NBA Cares Week of Service. Honorees from each branch of service were invited to dine and several wounded warriors were in attendance to show their appreciation as well.
"It was such a wonderful honor to be selected to represent all the medics and the mental health flight in this event; it was a lot of fun," said Capt. Tabitha Mullins, a clinical psychologist with the 79th Medical Wing.
Although the Airmen appreciated being recognized for their work that sometimes goes unnoticed by the masses, Mullins said it can be difficult at times, but caregivers don't do it for the accolades.
"It can be challenging dealing with people you know have gone through a lot, but what makes it rewarding for us is that we are providing them with assistance, we are providing them with a service and help," she said. "When you see someone that walks into your office and they're completely broken -- broken spirited, their lives are pretty much in disarray - and you're able to help them through providing support as well as behavioral treatments to get them back to a point where they've come full circle, that's the most rewarding part of our jobs."
Emeka Okafor, John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack and rookie Bradley Beal, along with the Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell , a retired All-Star player and three-time championship winner, and Washington Bullets alum Phil Chenier, served a three-course meal to those who serve as a token of appreciation for their service. The Wizard Girls were also on hand to show their spirit.
During the luncheon, the players took time to specially recognize family members who lost loved ones who were serving in the military.
"Really it's our chance, in a very small way, to say thank you to the folks who serve our country and the family members of those who serve our country by serving them," said Greg Bibb, the executive vice president of business operations for the Wizards. "Many of (the players) them have some sort of connection to the military themselves, so this event is a popular one. Everyone wants the opportunity to come out and show their appreciation."
Before the Airmen returned to their daily jobs of caring for and supporting their wounded warrior comrades, the Wizards signed autographs, took photos with Airmen and left small souvenirs for them to remember the event.
"It means a lot that they take the time out to recognize us," said Staff Sgt. Chris Pearson, a dental assistant at the 79th MDW and a native Washingtonian and Wizards fan. "You don't join the military for praises, but it feels good when you're acknowledged by your peers or your local community. It goes a long way. It makes you feel like what you're doing is really making a difference in individuals' lives."