DAY SEVEN Iraq Super Bowl Diary
DAY #7 - Super Bowl Sunday
Desert bliss: Thousands of miles from home we are up at 2:15 am eating mini pizzas and drinking non-alcoholic beer with 175 of our Army and Marine comrades at Speicher base’s large movie theater. At halftime, Bryan, Keith, Christian and I take questions; we think Seattle has blown their chance by missing two key scoring opportunities in the first half and going away from Shaun Alexander. And Tight end Stevens needs to be thrown to more (and not drop the ball!! - I also think Mike Holmgren’s wife being 7,000 miles away in Africa didn’t help). We get no sleep – but our mission is clear: to connect with as many troops as we can! A surprising number of Chiefs fans, by the way. The moment of truth came for two teams = and one was simply hungrier. Could this be an analogy for American and Iraq to ponder?
I wake up wanting to write a letter to the Iraq people challenging them to put together their own winning, unselfish team. The spirit of optimism is hard to miss. They all want to thank us – still. And the totally focused, committed five of us loving every minute of meeting these usually quiet heroes. The command center director at Speicher educated me on the real threat - about the gruesome recent discovery of horribly mutilated locals sympathetic to the Americans. The idea is to get psyched up to an attitude and level not common for Americans. Blackhawks to Camp Taji (can’t help thinking of the danger each time we rise straight up in the open, windy air, and at the same time how the adrenaline of the trip more than makes up for the noise and the limited but real danger) Big crowd – word must be getting out! - then Baghdad’s Camp Prosperity and Saddam’s wifes’ palace where I meet "Dollar Bill" Price who after years in charge of safety there is getting out soon. In the bottom of Saddams wife’s partially destroyed palace, we meet Jennifer Adams (Ca), Sara Harper (Fla), Anne Miles (IA), Danielle Bell – (Va,) and Show and Showanda Amerson (MS) next to the weightroom. . A racially diverse group effortlessly comfortable with each other (they work in intelligence and chemical analysis). A tour of Saddam’s command palace where we meet General Peter William Corelli, commander of land forces for Iraq. He and his colleague Colonel Turner see the 29 attacks today, including 15 IED’s.
On my radio show, Corelli talks about his beloved Mike Holmgren and their not so Super Day’s disappointing loss by the Seahawks (besides, he says, Shaun Alexander had 95 yards, so perhaps they didn’t go away from the game plan as much as we thought). He talks about 60% election turnouts signaling more passion for the process than America. The need for cultural and language training to expand communication between the Iraqi police & army and our own force so hope can take over, about how training requires drilling but also the confidence they are part of something larger than themselves, and safe enough to begin to network the community as things stabilize.
Corelli sees the need more clearly than ever for bringing hope to Iraqis by conveying an ease with their cultural charisma. We take the last of the Blackhawk rides (both morning and evening two sets of two helicopters mistakenly arrive simultaneously – we are a popular group apparently!) – and a sea of majors and colonels escorting us through these enormous palaces. We are so glad we did this. More players should! Bryan says he’d would not trade the memory of this for his Super Bowl Ring. While I wish I had a ring as well, but in the final analysis it’s the comradery that we share – the long exposure to pressure, to routine, and to the notion we are spending, as Teddy Roosevelt might say, ourselves in a worthy cause.
Tomorrow –last day in Iraq and thoughts from our team of brothers and sister on survival, competition, and diving into history this week.