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© 2017 Ben Garland

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The Best Of Both Worlds

I am a Denver Broncos offensive guard and I am also a captain in the Colorado Air National Guard at Buckley Air Force Base. It’s an amazing experience to have the opportunity to wear the two best uniforms in the world. And I couldn’t be prouder to put on either one, whether I have that “U.S. Air Force” on my chest or I get to put on the Broncos helmet and run out onto the field.

It’s a unique story. After four years at the Air Force Academy, all cadets are given 60 days of leave, where they usually take the time to relieve stress and take a break after four hard, hard years. Instead of taking my leave, I went to Broncos training camp in 2010, which was my initial rookie year. After training camp was over, I went on the military reserve list, which is a lot like IR, where you’re on the team, but you can’t really practice or play in the games.

Then I was stationed at the Academy, so I would go to work at the Academy early in the morning and then I’d drive up to practice, work out with the team, and drive back and continue working at the Academy. I did that my second year while I was still on the military reserve list. My third year I went through the “Palace Chase” program with the Air Force, where I was able to leave active duty early to pursue an NFL career. I played defense on the practice squad that season and again the next season. And this year, I made the team as an offensive guard, and was promoted to captain in the Guard in May.

Most Guardsmen serve one weekend a month (about 24 full days a year). Instead, I do about 48 days straight after the season is over. And I obviously do my drill weekends during the offseason. It’s one of those things where they say, if you enjoy what you do, then it’s not really work. I love each opportunity. I get to go to work with great people at both organizations.

The people I work with at Buckley are unbelievable. And then I come here and get to work with the best of the best at the Denver Broncos organization. I couldn’t be happier with the people I work with, and I think that’s what really makes working hard so much fun.

I spend most of my offseason going from the base to Broncos workouts. It’s really fun. They are two very different dynamics, and then at the same time, they are both very similar. In both places, you have to train your body, train your mind, be prepared for the task at hand. It takes a lot of time, effort and a very cohesive unit and teamwork in order to complete the task. The NFL and the U.S. Air Force are both elite teams striving to be the best in the world.

I’ve already finished my commitment with the Air Force, so I could leave at any time, but I love the opportunity to put on that uniform. As long as it continues to work out where I could do both schedules that allow me to serve my country and give my full commitment to the Broncos, then I am happy to do both.

I love the focus that the NFL puts on Veteran’s Day and the military in general. That’s why I’m proud to be part of the NFL and wear that shield. I’m so excited that the NFL is supporting the military in that fashion and really honoring our vets because the things that our veterans have to go through when they are overseas and away from their families to protect our freedom…we really owe it to them.

The Broncos make it a huge priority too. We oftentimes go and visit the local bases around the community. We have an honorary hero at every single game. And then we have the Salute to Service game, where we really try to emphasize it. Any opportunity the team gets, they really try to shine a light on and help the military. Even Coach Fox brings in a military speaker each year to talk to the team because there are so many similarities between the military and football, and things we can gain from each other.

It’s a huge honor to be nominated for the Salute to Service Award. I absolutely love the military, and I absolutely love what the NFL is doing to support it. Any time I can help out the military, I’m more than happy to. And I also try to do the little things, like saying hello to our Air Force Flag Team at our games and thanking them for their service. And when I’m working at the base, I give back as well.

It’s all a dream come true. I grew up here in Colorado, watching John Elway win Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII. I wore my Broncos T-shirts almost every day to school. And at the same time, I had the opportunity to go see an air show and visit my Grandfather who was a Colonel in the Air Force. So to be able to now be in those shoes and be a Denver Bronco and actually put on a military uniform and serve as a an officer…I’m very proud to do both.