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Published:May 22nd, 2009 14:27 EST
Art Rooney presenting President Obama a Steelers jersey

Obama Honors Wounded Soldiers While Hosting World Champion Steelers

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Though his allegance may belong almost entirely to the Chicago Bears, President Barack Obama eagerly hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers, his second favorite football team, on Thursday at the White House while paying respect to wounded soldiers and their relatives.

Art Rooney presenting President Obama a Steelers jersey

The Super Bowl XVIII Champion Pittsburgh Steelers joined the president at a White House ceremony congratulating the team for winning the franchise`s 6th Super Bowl title, before meeting with troops injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and their family members.

President Barack Obama with Dan Rooney

During the ceremony, President Obama praised Pittsburgh Steeler President Art Rooney II, head coach Mike Tomlin, Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes and team captains Ben Roethlisberger, Hine Ward, James Farrior and Jeff Reed. While mentioning his hometown pride may have seemed difficult amidst the imposing Steelers` teammates, Obama spoke unabashedly about how he will always be a Bears fan at heart but spoke about his support for the team. On the same topic, Obama did reiterate that he cheered on the Steelers when they faced the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl in February. In return, Pittsburgh Steelers` President Art Rooney awarded Obama an honorary jersey with the president`s surname and the number 44 stitched on the back.

Dan Rooney, Art`s father and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, had been a active supporter for Obama`s presidential campaign in his native state of Pennsylvania during the 2008 presidential elections. The president appointed Rooney the ambassador to Ireland in March.

In the formal event honoring those soldiers who suffered injuries on both fronts, 50 soldiers from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center were praised for the courageous sacrifices they made in battle by Obama, team members and the USO organization that has supplied relief for U.S. forces deployed all around the world. As a part of the occasion, the Steelers helped military families, servicemembers, and USO workers in preparing 3,000 care packages to be sent to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I often say that the beauty of serving others is that anyone can do it. You don`t have to be president, and you don`t have to be a pro football player," Obama said. "All you need to do is to have a desire to make a difference, to give back to your community and to contribute to your nation."

The Operation USO Care Package program has compiled over 1.5 million care packages since its inception in 2003. Currently, the USO delivers close to 25,000 packages every month to active members of the Armed Forces serving overseas.

"We`re going to give back to those who`ve given so much for us," Obama stated. "I find that fitting and proper - a good way to kick off a weekend that serves to honor all the men and women who have worn the proud uniform of this country that we love."