San Diego linebacker
Day 5 – Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan
Today started with breakfast at 7 a.m. and a full slate of activities. We visited a number of different FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) and jumped between each in Blackhawk choppers. We visited the Transit Center at Manas, which serves as a transition base and air refueling station, and viewed a KC 135 Tanker – a refueler for all our planes and the coalition aircraft – that is over 50 years old.
Out here, there are no ideal living situations. Servicemen and women are coming back from searching out land mines and interacting with locals; we are just here trying to be a presence for the troops. They never have time for themselves, and they’re basically out here sleeping in tents. I’ve seen it with my own eyes now. Money doesn’t matter. Color doesn’t matter. It reminds me so much of a locker room. We are all one here. We’re seeing the sun come up together the next day because you’ve got my back and I have yours.
One of my most memorable moments was meeting the troops on our first day. I met guys at 10 a.m. at the fire station, promised them I would be back, returned four days later and had the opportunity to work out with those on patrol. That was big for me because I kept my word and was able to show them how appreciative NFL players are of what they do. We are able to play on the field because of the sacrifices they make.
I met a few troops from San Diego the other day, and being able to see people from Georgia has been special. Meeting them, understanding where they come from, showing people from my home state how much their sacrifices mean and letting them know that people back home are thinking about them.
Thursday nights are Karaoke Nights on base, so we sang with the troops. There are some guys here that can really go. New York, New York by Frank Sinatra… I followed that with some Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay. I’ll tell you, they wanted to boo me, but the troops here have so much respect that they held back. It was a good time.
From here we board our flight home. Tonight the troops presented each of us with a U.S. flag that had been flown over Afghanistan at some point during the war as a symbol of their appreciation. As we wind this down, I have to say the trip has really exceeded my expectations. I see certain similarities to training camp. You have a bunch of guys together. They eat together. There’s a fellowship. They develop friendships, camaraderie, respect and share a special bond.
A message to my NFL brethren, celebrities out there, public figures, all of you: if you have the opportunity to take a week out of your schedule to visit with our troops on a USO tour, take that time out. This is it. The places I’ve been this past week, right there in the middle of the desert eating MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) in the middle of nowhere – these troops are really putting it down out here.
I’ll be sharing new photos over the next few days on Twitter. Follow me @TakeoSpikes51.