Sunday, February 05, 2006

DAY THREE Iraq Super Bowl Diary



DAY #3

Its 1:15 am in Kuwait City. Were staying ín our first and last hotel for a while – the Suisse Inn, in Kuwait city, a wealthy and somewhat Americanized Arab town of several million on the southeast border of Iraq (the one that Saddam invaded back in 1990). We leave by C-130 transport early tomorrow for an undisclosed "FOB"- or "Forward Operating Base", which will be our plan for each of the days from now on, accompanied by Chief Warrant Officer Chris Pace, a highly skilled helicopter pilot by training (1000 flights – this is his second and ‘last’ tour).
Concussions like Lafa Tatupu and Shaun Alexander’s are the all-too regular price of some NFL soldiers. Pace says after being in charge of 20 helicopter pilots he has seen how Post traumatic distress disorder was very real for some. We’re all excited and a little nervous, the emotional bluntness punctuated regularly by former Miami and New England linebacker Bryan Cox, who says he’s not nervous (I am, a little); that none of his siblings have ever served – only his Step Dad - and now we have a chance to see for ourselves, as Keith Byers calls it "unfiltered," the true heroes who lay their lives on the line. "Whether you believe in the war or not, you got to support the troops". Someone remarks that the troops here can both be committed to doing their duty and also have their moments of doubt. Ever read ‘The Red Badge of Courage’?!

Our guide, Chris Pace, says that several weeks ago Carly Goodwin (an up and coming country singer) met a young Iraqi girl in an American hospital who had been shot in the legs by insurgents who threw her in front of an oncoming American military vehicle in hopes that the Americans would get out to help her and expose themselves to an ambush in the process. Needless to say, she left Iraq with a new sense of passion for the people suffering here.

Bonnie Jill Laflin, our all-universe cheerleader/model/actress (who are we kidding who is going to be the most popular one on this mission?!) is back for another trip after visiting the troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, and says that she gets so much more out of it than the troops (we’ll poll the troops about that one this weekend!). Her Grandfather served in WW II and her Uncle in Vietnam (he still hears bombs going off from time to time). Like my Dad, (former Chiefs teammate and 1990 NFL rushing champion) Christian Okoye’s father fought in World War II; the proud Nigerian soldier fought alongside the British. Keith says "its about not taking freedom for granted" – so even though his Mom is not excited about it (none of ours is! lol), and even after his Bosnia trip with the troops last year when he was told to stay on the pavement as the "soft spots" might be some of the seven million (?!) land mines still left over from the war, and even though Bryan’s kids cried for two days and his brothers wouldn’t take his calls when they heard he was going, they both are honored to be here. We all are.
Iraq – twice the size of Idaho, 25 million strong, with an average age of 19 (only 3% over 64) - waits. The Super Bowl is three days away – our starts in five hours!

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