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Video Games With Those Who Serve

In Pros Vs. Joes event, Cardinals spend time with military members and their families


Offensive linemen Earl Watford (78) and Mike Gibson make friends with a young fan at Tuesday's Pros vs. Joes event.

At 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, not many people push Cardinals offensive lineman Earl Watford around.

On Tuesday afternoon, though, he couldn't handle the onslaught from some byte-sized opposition.

Watford was one of six Cardinals who participated in a video game competition as part of the Pros vs. G.I. Joes program.

Watford, Justin Bethel, Matt Shaughnessy, Ryan Lindley, Lorenzo Alexander and Mike Gibson played Call of Duty: Ghosts alongside marines from the Wounded Warrior Regiment and their families at the Cardinals practice facility. The local contingent linked up with troops serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan via Xbox Live and used a webcam on Skype to see and hear each other.

Watford bought the game when it was released but did not get enough practice in before the competition.

"There are kids in there whuppin' up on me," Watford said. "They're the pros. Goodness."

Master sergeant Salvador Marquez chose the marines for the event and said he wanted to select those who would get the most out of the experience.

Retired staff sergeant Luis Frias was a natural pick. He coordinates the flag detail at Cardinals games and has the team's logo tattooed on his leg. Frias brought his two sons and nephew to the event.

"He knows I'm a huge Cardinals fan," Frias said. "He knows when anything comes up Cardinals-wise, I'm bright-eyed, bushy-tailed."

Marquez said the Cardinals do a lot for military members, from free tickets to trips on the field during flag ceremonies. He said the up-close interaction is what the marines remember most.

"Being able to interact with the players in this setting is unparalleled," Marquez said. "For days I've been getting texts, 'Are we still on? What time do we meet? What do I wear?' They're just so excited to have this opportunity."

U.S. marine corporal Laura Bringas was injured in Fallujah, Iraq. She said military members sometimes have a tough time finding their place when they return from action. Even though the video game event was only for a few hours, Bringas said it can do wonders for the psyche.

"It kind of has a trickle-effect," Bringas said. "This kind of thing makes them remember they're not forgotten."

Even though he struggled to keep up in the video game competition, Watford was elated to play with the troops.

"It's a great thing, and we can continue to do more," he said. "That's just one of the small things. It's great for everyone to be a part of this."

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