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Stephen Weatherly and Jalyn Holmes exercise with troops at Camp Ripley

And even got to fire the big guns. Literally.

Minnesota Vikings v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

We often point out when the Minnesota Vikings get involved with the community, and this Veterans Day weekend the team’s official website brought us a story about a couple of the Vikings’ defensive linemen getting an opportunity to do some work with some local military members.

This past July, just before the start of Training Camp, Stephen Weatherly and Jalyn Holmes got a chance to spend some time with the 151st Field Artillery Battalion, which is part of the Minnesota Army National Guard Unit at Camp Ripley. Camp Ripley is about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis, near Little Falls.

(They managed to find kevlar vests that fit both Weatherly and Holmes, which is pretty darn impressive, in my opinion.)

Holmes and Weatherly were joined by former Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, as well as some other former Twin Cities athletes, as part of a program sponsored by the United Heroes League. The United Heroes League is an organization that helps military children stay active and involved in sports when their parents are deployed.

Holmes was impressed with the level of teamwork the members of the 151st showed in the field.

“You had to trust in the next person that they were going to do their job. Everybody had to do their assignment to the best of their abilities. You’ve got five people in different places to make sure everything goes to perfection.”

It also sounds like Weatherly got an opportunity to fire one of the big guns, an M777 Howitzer.

“Just crazy, being able to do that. To have all that power come out as soon as you pulled it, [it’s] nothing like going shooting at a range or something like that,” Weatherly said. “Just seeing all of the different steps, you start it in the tent, when they process all the information to make sure it lands in the right spot.

“And going out and seeing the guys actually grab the ammunition, make sure it is verified, throw it in there, with the gun powder, with the charge, close it, and then wait for the field captain to say ‘fire,’ ” Weatherly added. “From the time they get the call to the time the gun goes off, it’s 45 seconds, so everyone is working smooth, fast and in a hurry. That was crazy. They let me pull it, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to try it at least once.’ I was glad I was able to have that opportunity.”

Weatherly, Holmes, and the rest of the athletes involved then spent some time signing autographs and just hanging out with the troops from Camp Ripley.

It’s really great that the Vikings give their players the opportunity to do this. Kudos to the United Heroes League for setting the whole thing up and getting Stephen Weatherly and Jalyn Holmes out the Camp Ripley, and hopefully some more Vikings’ players will take the opportunity to do that as well.