clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Manning talks with wounded heroes on his 39th birthday

While sports news networks were making a big deal of Peyton Manning's 39th birthday March 24, creating as many storylines as possible about No. 18's chances for a good season, the five-time NFL MVP was making a big deal of a much more important storyline - the U.S. Military soldiers who were wounded while serving their country.

There was no riding a camel into a celebrity-packed party (ala Adrian Peterson) for Peyton Manning last week on his birthday. No monster cake with 39 candles to blow out.

The Denver Broncos quarterback wouldn't even let Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. mention the 39-year-old's birthday to a group of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center because he "didn't want the event to be about him."

Most of the soldiers in the room probably knew it if they had even glanced at any NFL news that morning, but making sure those service men and women were the center of attention was exactly what Manning wanted.

Neal Adams Johnson, a retired Master Chief Hospital Corpsman in the Navy (and gigantic Broncos fan) invited to the private event, said Manning was his typical self - compassionate, encouraging and, of course, a little funny.

Peyton took the time to listen to the stories behind the scars and wounds of war. He helped the veterans look beyond their individual injuries. And he made them laugh.   - Neal Adams-Johnson, retired Navy Master Chief Hospital Corpsman

"Peyton took the time to listen to the stories behind the scars and wounds of war," Johnson said. "He helped the veterans look beyond their individual injuries. He made them laugh. They were honored to have him, but I think he was the one who was honored to be with them."

Manning was also presented the USO Metro Merit Award at the 33rd awards banquet of the USO of Metro Washington-Baltimore for his continuous support of the military via numerous USO visits with injured and wounded soldiers.

Johnson, the only person in the room wearing a Broncos sweatshirt (No. 18, of course), caught Manning's eye.

"Peyton looked at my attire and said, ‘looking great Master Chief,' and I replied truthfully, ‘I did not dress up special for this occasion. I dress like this every day. Orange is my new Uniform Of The Day,'" Johnson added.