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Fourth Of July With The Troops

Whisenhunt wraps up USO coaches tour spending holiday in Iraq


On the Fourth of July, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt (right) meets Marine Joseph Waters of Chandler, Az., at Waters' remote military base in Iraq.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, taking part in a NFL coaches tour with Gary Kubiak, Jim L. Mora. and Jim E. Mora in the Persian Gulf visiting U.S. military personnel, will be giving first-person updates of his trip.

It's easy to forget what day it is because of where you are and the routine you are going through, but all the DFACs (dining facilities) we went to were decorated and there was a cake. They make an effort over here to connect with the Fourth of July, and it's easy to remember and be thankful for what we have, which is our independence. It was a good day. Fourth of July has always been important to me because it has always been a big family day. I think today was a little different but it was every bit as special. The impact you have on our troops, that is really special.

What is funny, there were a couple soldiers that made the joke that they don't really like fireworks over here on Fourth of July, given the things that have happened here with the indirect fire and the missiles and they don't want that. But (the day) is very important to the troops and it's important they connect to the fact what that means. They are living what the meaning of the Fourth of July is by being here. I think our country does a great job supporting that. The celebration was a little bit different, no fireworks, but we had a good celebration dinner tonight.

We also took a Blackhawk helicopter to a remote post that hadn't had anyone visit them since March. They had a Fourth of July barbecue and it was a festive atmosphere. Guys were very excited to see somebody, and they were all football fans, and that really struck home. They were a smaller group, not a lot of guys. One of the more interesting things today was here in the middle of Iraq, at one of these forward-operating bases, I ran into a First Lieutenant marine named Joseph Waters that went to high school at Seton Catholic in Chandler. The first thing he said to me was, "Your son (Kenny) went to Seton Catholic." As soon as he said Seton my ears perked up and he told me his brother played football with (Kenny) there. Just goes to show what a small world it is, that I am at a remote outpost that I had to take a Blackhawk helicopter to get to, and I run across someone who went to the same high school as my son.

We had a big meet-and-greet tonight at one of the main bases at the USO center. There were a lot of people there and that was kind of the big finale for us. (Tuesday) we start making our way back to Kuwait and we will catch a flight out late back to the States, so we get back Wednesday.

Using military terms, I had good "intel" about the trip, I had good intelligence about what we were going to be doing, and the USO does a good job informing us what we were going to do. The thing is you never know when the schedule will change. Today we were sitting in a little room for two hours waiting to take a trip to one of the bases. When you are waiting to travel by Blackhawk helicopter and it gets another mission, you are delayed. Those things can happen. It's ironic that it's kind of like our business, how games don't always go the way you want them to and you have to adjust, you might have to change a scheme. That was kind of what I expected.

It went by quickly. We were busy. We were on a C-130 airplane again today, we were on Blackhawk helicopter three different trips, taking trucks and vans to all different bases. The hectic pace, I didn't expect. The emotional connection to the troops and seeing how excited they were to see somebody from home, that was something I didn't expect. The human element, even though you think you know what it will be, once you see the conditions they live in but the enthusiasm they have for their job, that's what hits you where you aren't expecting it.

In talking to the other coaches, those are the things we will be thinking about for weeks and weeks about this trip. Today, on the Fourth of July, I was just proud to see our troops and how they represent our country. I am grateful to be an American and to have these people helping another country as well as defending our freedom.

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