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(WHNT) — A national organization started by former Alabama and Auburn football players put on a special Veterans Day surprise for veterans.

Lettermen of the USA gathered 18 honorably discharged service members in partnership with the “Semper Fi Task Force of North Alabama” for a lunch and ceremony in Madison.

What the heroes didn’t know is that they’d be surprised with autographed footballs from their favorite college football team.

Founder of the organization Darryl Fuhrman, a former Crimson Tide player himself, says the group traveled across the Southeast all year to pay tribute to veterans and their families in a standout way.

When their units come back from Afghanistan or Iraq, they’re in San Antonio Burn Unit, they’re at Walter Reed Medical Center,” said Fuhrman. “They’re at Wounded Warrior at Quantico. They don’t get that special welcome home. This is the first time somebody gives them something that a head coach of their favorite college team took the time and his staff to autograph and ship that to them. And that’s huge to those people.”

Numerous former Alabama and Auburn football players and coaches personally delivered the autographed balls to the vets.

Fuhrman says Huntsville is unique in having many veterans from all over the country to celebrate and thank.