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Military roots run deep for D.C. United

United players discuss family ties to the Armed Forces

When Perry Kitchen was away with the U.S. Olympic qualifying side earlier this year, an interesting rumor about the D.C. midfielder began to circulate through the camp. Impressed by his discipline and attention to detail, Kitchen's teammates joked that he might actually be doubling as an undercover Navy Seal. As with most rumors this one was inaccurate, but it's easy to see why such an idea might catch on.

"Discipline has been instilled in me since day one," says Kitchen, whose father Chris served in the Armed Forces. "Be respectful. Do all the little things right, be on time. My dad was never super strict about it, but discipline was always important to him."

Military roots run deep across D.C.'s roster as the Black-and-Red prepares to honor those who have served on Armed Forces & Veteran Appreciation Day this weekend. Midfielder Danny Cruz owes his tireless work rate to a military upbringing that shaped the player - and person - he is today. The 22-year-old's father has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and remains enlisted in the U.S. Army, giving Cruz a very real perspective on the rigors of military life.

"It is so hard," said Cruz. "There wasn't a day that I didn't think about the fact that my father was over there [in the line of fire] for this country."

"Those are the true heroes," added Kitchen. "They fight for our freedom and rights. They are the true heroes and we really respect those guys."

In the build-up to Saturday's ceremonies, United players spent some time giving back to the military community this week. On Tuesday, D.C. captain Dwayne De Rosario led a delegation in visiting wounded military personnel at Bethesda's Walter Reed Medical Center. The next day, Robbie Russell, Bill Hamid, Chris Korb and Nick DeLeon spent a few hours creating USO care packages destined for those members of the armed forces stationed overseas.

"I had a grandfather who served in the Marines," said DeLeon. "It meant a lot to be able to give back to the troops in some type of fashion."

"It means so much to give back with all the Armed Forces do," Russell agreed. "It will give us an extra bit of energy knowing they are in our stadium on Saturday night."