DALLAS (AP) - Roger Staubach remembers coming home from Vietnam to a divided country, and later arguing with Dallas Cowboys teammates about the unpopular war.
It's quite different these days, with coaches wearing military-themed clothing, "salute to service" painted on the back line of the end zones and frequent tributes to troops on giant video boards such as the one that hangs above the center of the field at the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys.
"I think people started to realize that it wasn't the troops," Staubach said when asked why support stayed strong after the more recent Iraq war generated controversy.
"They were doing what our country asked them to do. Obviously you can't have a mutiny and say, 'Hey, we're not going to go into Iraq or Afghanistan' or what have you.
"I think the American public realizes, 'Hey, these men and women are being asked for our country to go out and do this. We need to honor them.'"
Before winning two Super Bowls as quarterback of the Cowboys in the 1970s, the Navy graduate served a one-year tour as a supply officer in Vietnam, returning from duty not long before the Tet Offensive that marked a turning point for the U.S. presence in the region.
Staubach's career with the Cowboys started two years later ￢ﾀﾔ in 1969. And while the NFL wasn't nearly the business enterprise it is today, Staubach also recalls an atmosphere not as conducive to celebrating the military.
"There were protests going on all the time," said Staubach, who didn't recall any such events at games.
"Back then, it was really why were we there? So that was the debate. Dishonoring the troops was a horrible mistake by our country. Now they're understanding that.
"It's a whole different feeling, and it's the right feeling for the veterans to be treated the way they are now versus Vietnam."
Staubach participated in a halftime event during last Sunday's Dallas-Philadelphia game when a service dog was presented to a wounded veteran. He helps promote military insurance provider USAA's efforts to honor troops, and has his own foundation that tries to find jobs for veterans.
And he sees the difference four decades has made in the link between the NFL and the military.
"They're sure not dumb," Staubach said. "They know that it's the right thing to do and that it's also good for the league. When I came back from Vietnam, you weren't welcomed with open arms by any means. The whole thing has changed."
NFL's Salute to Service: salutetoservice.com
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This article was written by Schuyler Dixon from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.