Time for reflection. Up in the air, somewhere between DC and San Francisco, on the last leg of a twenty four hour travel day… As I look back on this experience, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve seen, I am overwhelmed with different emotions. It makes me want to live my life in a much more aggressive and proactive fashion. One can only hear someone say, “When I get out of here and go back home I am going to…” so many times with out feeling guilty. I am home. I am “out of here”. I feel a renewed sense of responsibility to seize life, to make the most of each day because each day of freedom is a gift. Our freedom is protected everyday by our armed forces, take away their power, and we as a nation are powerless. Take away their courage, and we will (and SHOULD) be scared. I feel that I have been generally unaware in the past, not in tune to what is really happening in our nation and around the world. I feel embarrassed in my aloof attitude towards our military affairs and global policies, but vow to become more educated and in tune. I would be lying if I didn’t mention that a few times I looked around and thought “what the hell are we doing here?” I wondered why it is OUR men and women that stand guard at the Iraq and Iran border. How come OUR Marine Corps has to guard the IA General, what is wrong with the IA? But then I talked with the people there and it all became clear. I remembered what we stand for as a country, united against tyranny in our infancy and obligated to protect the weak as we have grown powerful. Not obligated by law, but obligated by our nature as Americans. Many may argue that we shouldn’t be in Iraq at all, but I will say that the overwhelming response from the Iraqis I met is that their country is in a much better place now, than it was ten years ago. They seem very grateful for our help and guidance. Our service members don’t want our pity for their difficult situation, they want our support. They chose their careers. Another interesting aspect is the sense of team and teamwork. Everyone is united in the same goal, everyone works together. They are the type of people that cannot accept a personal compliment. Every time I received positive feed back, it sounded like this, “What you are doing, just being here, really means a lot to these guys, they really appreciate it.” Never once did people say it in an individual way, they are too tough to admit to something like that. They care more about the man standing next to them than they do about themselves. This sentiment was expressed by the lowest of the enlisted and the highest of the officers that we met. This sentiment moved seamlessly throughout each individual branch and unified our entire armed forces. These people risk their lives to protect our country and our interests without regret. They are my heroes. The next time you see a veteran, do your part to say thank you, regardless if you believe in our government’s politics or motivations for being in any conflict. These soldiers are real people that make a big sacrifice for us, never forget that. I never will.
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As we come to the conclusion of our troop visit tour, I must admit- most of me doesn’t even want to come home! Having the opportunity to do the things we have done in the last week has completely changed our lives.
Before going on this trip, I imagined that we would meet soldiers from base to base, shake hands, and then go home, point-blank. NEVER would I have imagined the attachment I have to our troops now. Besides signing autographs and surprising our soldiers with dance performances, we got a little taste of each and every one of them, their lives and families back home, and a reminder of what our American spirit is worth. These men and women are away from their families for so long, and for what? To protect us, our freedoms, and even trying to help others establish their own. I don’t think I could have imagined a better experience with these amazing people. We have made SO many memories here: from base-hopping in Black Hawks, waking up to Lil’ Nat squashing mosquitoes and flies on her “wet chu” walls, riding undercover in MRAPs, Christina (the OFFICIAL klutz) blowing out her hotel room lights and getting herself locked in a bathroom, Stef soaking half the U.S. Navy while driving their speedboats, crossing borders in C130’s, to Colonel Shock being forced to become our official photographer, to the DFACs and PXs, Matt getting OWNED by the General, and the million and a half military acronyms… WOW! And that’s not even half of it. We have learned so much about what our military does on a day to day basis, and I can honestly say that I have gained a newfound admiration and respect for each and every single person there.
I know I’m going to come back and everyone’s going to ask me what my trip was like, did I have fun, etc., etc., but honestly….there are NO words to describe this trip. Being there was an absolute blessing.
I am so thankful for everyone that was responsible for this trip: the Armed Forces Entertainment, the Marlins organization, the USO staff, Colonel Shock, my trip buddies, and my family and friends for their support. Yet most importantly, to the many people that I have encountered and learned from. I will never forget any of you, and I hope to see you home soon, safe and sound…maybe even at a Marlins’ game!
Lots of love,
P.S.- special shout out to all of our base soldiers, and to the Bodega Boys… you’ll make it big one day!
*Long live CRUSHFEST 2010!*
We are in Washington/Dulles for the next two hours until our flight leaves for Miami and everyone is fairly exhausted. However, after a 14-hour flight from Kuwait, what’s a couple more hours??
The evening in Kuwait was uneventful after my last post; we made it through the hustle and insanity of Kuwait City Airport check-in, then I grabbed a coffee from Starbucks, Fredi and Larry picked up some souvenirs at the Harley-Davidson Kuwait store, then as a group we crushed 54 McNuggets, 5 large fries and a chicken sandwich at McDonald’s (yes, there’s even a McD’s in Kuwait City Airport and it’s just as bad for you).
Here in Washington DC it’s chilly outside and the ground is covered in snow. Amazingly it felt more like home 7,000 miles away. A few of us had aspirations of some early Monday sight-seeing in DC, but I think exhaustion may have gotten the better of us for now. I have had a chance during the layover to check in with a few of the many people we met during our trip to Kuwait and Iraq. I may now officially have a friend from every state in the U.S., which I suppose can’t be a bad thing when you’re traveling and looking for a good place to eat!
I am looking forward to getting home, seeing my fiance, sleeping in my own bed, preparing for Caravan and FanFest (which starts next week!) and downloading tons of video and photos from the trip. It may take a day or two, but check out Marlins.com throughout the week for updates..trust me, you will want to see some of this!
I’ll see many of you back home soon!