When Keith Maynard, a Blackhawk pilot for the Maryland Guard, was stationed in Camp Taji, Iraq last year, he had a photo taken of him holding a Capitals rally towel in front of a helicopter in flight.
His father, Jeff, brought the photo to a Capitals practice and asked forward Matt Hendricks if he’d sign it. Hendricks, whose father, Doug, served as a U.S. Marine, asked if he could do something more.
Maynard pulled out a handful of photos of Caps fans who were stationed with his son in Iraq and Hendricks personalized each one from the hood of his car.
This week, Hendricks is joining Nationals pitchers Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen, country singer Kellie Pickler and comedia Iliza Shlesinger on a USO Holiday Tour organized by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Through his Twitter account, Hendricks has already shared photos from his stops in Kabul, Bagram and Kandahar.
“Any time you go into a hostile country like that where there’s any conflict you’re putting yourself in danger,” Jeff Maynard said. “When Keith left for Iraq I know exactly how my father felt when I went to Vietnam in the ‘60s.
“So for someone like Matt, a professional hockey player, to go over there and put himself in personal danger that he’s not required to do … I mean, he’s doing that out of his service to country and the respect he has for those that are serving overseas.
“That’s a personal sacrifice. He’s got family at home, he’s got the little ones [a set of 13-month-old twins], and to take that time to volunteer at this time of year, it’s commendable.”
Hendricks, a native of Blaine, Minn., has always had a deep respect for the men and women who defend the U.S. In October, he invited Bo Reichenbach, who lost both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan, to practice on the ice with the Caps. He and his wife, Kim, have also helped support Defending The Blue Line, a non-profit that provides financial assistance to children of military parents who want to play youth hockey.
Jeff Maynard, who spent a year serving in Vietnam, said Hendricks’ work with the military community does not go unnoticed. He said he remembers his unit providing security for one of Bob Hope’s visits to Vietnam and how much it meant to the troops in need of some encouragement.
“To take the time to go over there, it’s just unbelievable how much it means to a father like me and to the troops. I know they appreciate it.”