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Whiz's Tour Gets To Iraq

Coaches spend time with groups as soldiers ask about football in 2011

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Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt allows a soldier to wear his Steelers' Super Bowl ring and his Cardinals' NFC Championship ring during Saturday's USO tour.




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

Saturday was a great day. We saw a lot of men and women in the armed forces, and it really goes back to their commitment to what they do. This is not the easiest place to be on a day-to-day basis, and I think that struck us today when we landed in Iraq and we saw what the conditions are like.

Whenever we meet someone, though, you see that pep in their step and that commitment in their eyes. It's something unbelievably humbling for me, for them to be serving our country and allow us to do what we do. It strikes home with you. And to a man – and woman – they express their gratitude of us being over here whereas I feel grateful for them being there for us.

Some of what it's like here is hard for me to judge, just because we've only been here two days. Some of it is about what (the soldiers) tell me. They are the ones living this. It gets very hot, it's very sandy, it's windy and there are times when it is inhospitable. It wasn't awful here today. It didn't seem hotter than Phoenix, but it is a very barren landscape. There's no real vegetation, and while they have structures, there are no real big buildings. You can see, when you'd have to live here day in and day out, it'd be tough. It is really hot and the sand gets in everything everywhere you go.

What we talk about (with soldiers) really depends on the area in which we are meeting them. A lot of times we are meeting them where they work and they are proud of the work they do. They want to show what they do and show off what they have. We got into a troop carrier vehicle today, an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) and saw the inside of that, and drove around to see how that would work. We also got so spend some time with some Special Ops guys and that was one of the most unbelievable experiences I have ever had. What those guys do and the sacrifices they make, to be able to sit down with them as they prepare for what they are going to do, it was above and beyond for them. I thoroughly enjoyed that and have such great respect for them.

One of the things you see is the military pride. They are working so hard, and despite they are away from their families and away from home, they have such a great attitude. I really respect their commitment. It's not the easiest job, to do it halfway across the world, but they do it with a passion.

Other times we are at the eating facilities, the DFAC, and there are a lot of soldiers in there and when they come in to eat, they come over to talk to us and maybe get a picture and talk about where they are from or what team they are a fan of. Many of these units come over as a group, whether it is California or Texas or Mississippi or yesterday was Detroit, and they talk about their teams. But the one thing that really comes through is that they are fans of the game.

It doesn't matter where you go in the world now, the first question you are going to get is, "Are we going to have football this year?" That's really on minds of our servicemen and women, because they care about those games and being connected to home watching the games. That's the one thing that really concerns them. That is certainly something I can understand.

I don't feel any extra responsibility on this trip, just an extra pride to be involved in this. Words can't express what soldiers go through or what their lives are like. I certainly have a greater appreciation for the sacrifices they make to do their jobs and how they do them and what they are up against. It's similar to a football team. Things don't always go as planned. You have to persevere. This is a tough place. And yet they work hard to do it the right way. If they get enjoyment out of seeing us, and they have expressed that, it means a lot to me. I do believe being a part of the NFL, this USO tour, making our servicemen and women happy, well, I am honored to be considered part of that.

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