NFL player’s Best Defense Foundation returns veterans to site of their heroism

The battles of World War II are fading from our collective memory, but some of the men who fought there are still here, still shaped by those epochal days. Many haven’t returned to the European theater since they fought there, but one former NFL player is giving veterans the opportunity to take one more look at the battlefields that changed their lives.

Donnie Edwards played 13 seasons with the Chiefs and Chargers from 1996 to 2008. The grandson of a World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, Edwards had always felt a close connection to the military. A few years ago, he struck up a chance conversation with a paratrooper who had fought at Normandy decades before. The vet had never been back, so Edwards offered to take him back. More veterans wanted in, so Edwards footed the bill for them all to return to Europe.

That was the start of the Best Defense Foundation, which to date has taken more than 200 veterans on trips back across the Atlantic. Edwards has walked alongside veterans in parades and laid down alongside them in the very foxholes they dug more than 70 years ago.

“Our motto is taking care of the ones who took care of us,” Edwards says. “Look what these guys did 75 years ago. Let’s make sure we tell them ‘thank you.’”

Donnie Edwards during his playing days in 2006. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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