Rams Players Touched by Families of Fallen Military Service Members

The Los Angeles Rams got a new perspective on life after meeting with families who have lost loved ones while serving the country in the military.

"It really puts life in perspective."

That's what the Los Angeles Rams quarterback and No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff said after meeting with family members who have lost a loved one while in service for their country.

Exactly 63 different families — one for each player on the Rams roster — were invited to a team workout on Saturday at the team's practice facility in Thousand Oaks, California where they met with players, and shared stories of their fallen loved ones who were killed in action while serving the United States of America.

The event, which carried over into the LA Coliseum on Sunday when the Rams hosted the reigning NFC Champion Carolina Panthers, was all part of an NFL program entitled, "Salute to Service." The league honors and salutes veterans and their families throughout the season and exclusively chooses 32 different games in which to honor America's heroes. 

The Rams took it a step further, by being the first organization to invite the family members to the team's facility for a meet and greet and behind the scenes tour. 

"This is a first for you guys and a first for our organization," head coach Jeff Fisher said as he addressed the families. "It's a special moment."

The team partnered with an organization called the Tragedy Assistance Program, or "TAPS," for short. The program's sole purpose is to help grieving families get back on their feet after the loss of their loved ones and hopefully, shed a little sunshine and happiness on a dark period in their lives.

The Rams assigned each player on the roster with a family and required them to read each individual's story prior to their light workout and walkthrough on Saturday.

The players received a photo of the family member they were assigned to and were able to listen to personal heartfelt stories about these fallen heroes. As a token of their appreciation, the families received autographed helmets and footballs from the players and on Sunday, each player was able to wear various camouflage equipment like towels, gloves, hats and lapel pins and each had a decal on their helmet with the initials of the fallen service member they were assigned 

"We'll have the initials on the back of our helmets and it gives us something to play for," said Rams safety Cody Davis on Saturday. 

One of those players who was touched the most by the meeting was the 22-year-old Goff who had to take an introspective look into his own life when he was assigned the family of Israel Garcia, a service member who died in Afghanistan in 2008 at the age of 24, just two years older than Goff.

"It was really eye opening and special to meet the family," Goff said. "Most of the people here that lost family members were around my age. The situation I'm in, I'm thankful to be in it."

Garcia's family along with the 62 other families were honored underneath the famed archway of the Coliseum before the game, where they stood and waved to over 86,000 fans in attendance as they lit the Olympic torch overhead.

"We have a tradition where we light the torch before kickoff," Fisher told the families on Saturday. "You all are going to be lighting the torch tomorrow."

On hand, was the oldest living member of the original Los Angeles Rams team, Jim Hardy, who sat down for an exclusive interview with NBC LA before the season, is a USC alumnus and played quarterback for the Rams from 1946 to 1948. He also served in the military during World War II onboard the USS Maryland battleship.

The game ended in a 13-10 loss for the Rams, as Cam Newton and the Panthers were victorious in their first ever game at the LA Coliseum. By virtue of the score, the NFL donated $23,000 to their Salute to Service program as they donate $1,000 for every point scored for each of the 32 games selected this season.

Despite the Rams loss, the weekend was something that these family members will never forget. Nothing can ever take away from the death of their loved ones, but for a brief moment on a sunny SoCal day at the LA Coliseum, they got to remember their fallen heroes in a very special way.

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