Today’s Marlins Troops Visit post is written by Miami Marlins Executive Vice President of Operations & Events, Claude Delorme:
On Monday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., Angela and I met with the rest of the traveling party: Dan Jennings, Marlins GM, Cliff Floyd and Charles Johnson, two key members of the Marlins 1997 World Series Champions and Carla and Lauren, two members of the Energy Team.
Our 4:55 p.m. departure to Frankfurt, Germany was on time and we arrived as scheduled at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday. With a six hour time difference, it represented a 9 hour flight. Once at the airport, we found one of the lounges and we had a five and a half-hour layover prior to our flight to Kuwait. Our group struggled the most during this rest period. We finally boarded for Kuwait at 1:35 pm and arrived at 9 pm. We lost another two hours between Frankfurt and Kuwait. By the time we cleared immigration, obtained our visa, collected our luggage and arrived at the camp, it was midnight. We were all tired and we called it a night so we could be ready for the busiest day of the tour on Wednesday.
When I arrived to my room, I decided to take a shower before going to bed. As I was taking my shower, I realized that I had not seen any towels in the common restroom/shower area. Sure enough, no towels were available. All I had with me was the bottom portion of my pajamas and a shirt. I dried myself with my hands as well as I could and headed to my room for a good night’s sleep. The next day, Dan, Cliff and Charles took their top blanket with them to the showers. We made it a priority that day to visit the general store and purchase towels, soap and shampoo for the remainder of the trip.
On Wednesday at two of the camps, our day started at 10:45 a.m. where we met the Commander and his executive staff for an information session. We also discussed the role of the U.S. during the Gulf War. They presented each of us with certificates at the end of the session and we took photos with the group. It was very informative. Lunch followed on-site with the troops . Lots of choices and the food was good. We then met with the military of Zone 1 at the camp’s Community Center for an autograph and photo session. It also gave us an opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with the service men and women. It was special experience for all of us. We then met with the military responsible for the Paladin Unit. These are the large tanks that are able to release missiles as far as 18 miles away from their target with a great deal of precision. A team of seven people are assigned to each Paladin including four members inside the tank. Each missile released will destroy everything within 300 meters of the target area. Once a target is identified to be released, they will fire three missiles to the same target area to ensure that everything in that area is destroyed. The soldiers brought us inside the Paladin and went through the simulation as well as everyone’s role in a real life situation. Charles was asked to open the chamber . It was extremely heavy but he was able to accomplish the task on his second attempt. What a thrill to experience this mission for all of us. Charles, Cliff and the girls were able to take several photos inside and outside the Paladin. We also took a few photos with the entire group. It was the highlight of the day for the Marlins team.
Next, it was time for a softball game with the service men and woman of the camp. We had brought our gloves and held a batting practice for everyone. I pitched and everyone had the opportunity to hit and catch a few softballs. The troops really enjoyed being around Dan, Cliff and Charles. Carla and Lauren also made their way to the plate and were able to hit a few baseballs. Charles and Cliff made their way to the plate on a few occasions and I can tell you that I needed to be alert with their bat speed and power still very much at play. Dan also showed some form and he was able to hit a few pitches a long way. We enjoyed the camaraderie with the service men and women and they were able to play and interact with Cliff and Charles. They will remember that experience forever. One of the guys who participated told me it was his highlight of his five years since joining the army. Nice for us to have this impact.
It was 5:oo p.m. so we went to dinner with the troops. We were escorted to the VIP room for a private dinner with a few captains and sergeants of the military. It was a nice opportunity for us to connect with them and better understand the sacrifices and dedication to their job and country.
We then traveled off-site to meet with children 3 to 17 years of age playing softball and baseball in Kuwait. Four fields had just been built and the children were waiting for us for a Q & A session with Charles and Cliff, followed with an autograph and photo session with our baseball guys and the girls. Carla and Lauren were very popular with the kids as well. As we arrived, they were all cheering “Go Fish” . Over 200 people were in attendance and they were ready to fire questions to Cliff and Charles. It was a very fitting way to complete our first full day of this extraordinary journey. I was very proud of everyone’s commitment on our team and to see the children’s smile and passion for the game of baseball, it made our visit so rewarding.
It was an incredible day and we were so impressed with how humble and appreciative everyone we all interacted with throughout the day. It will be an unforgettable experience for all of us.
Well day 2 is in the books…very busy and hectic day. We had an early start at 6:30 a.m. The day started with a meet-and-greet with the commanding officer and his top aids at our camp. He gave us a lot of detail about how the US troops helped free Kuwait from Iraqi control during the Gulf war. They presented us with certificates of appreciation and we took many photos.
We then went to the chow hall for our first taste of military food. All in all, it was pretty good. They offer many options ranging from full meal, to sandwiches, chicken fingers, etc… also, salad bar and carrot cake!!!
After that we had another meet and greet with a lot of the troops in their community center. We set up autograph and photo lines and spent 1:15 minutes non-stop. Very inspiring to hear their appreciation of us being there. I had a lot of one on one discussions with the troops.
We then proceeded to a softball / baseball field where we had some fun with batting practice with some of the guys. Even yours truly took some hacks…(I’m typing this behind 2 Aleve) It was really fun to interact with the troops in an environment where we felt comfortable.
Following BP, we were escorted to a paladin (tank) demonstration. we crawled inside the tank and they activated the engine and rotated the gun, locked and loaded the artillery and was ready to fire…there are normally 4 people when a tank is in operation, but, they allowed some more of us inside. They re-created an actual lock, load and fire with intense orders and actions….gotta tell ya, the ‘ole ticker was amped up a bit with a huge adrenaline rush. Made a lot of photo’s in and around the tank. Really cool the way they took us in and gave us that type of re-creation.
Finally it was dinner time. We had dinner at camp, this time they set us in the VIP room. Chicken Cordon-Bleu was on the menu. I must say, food was damn good, but….Papi will eat anything. We left dinner and went for another meet-and-greet. There were a lot of troops who followed us from dinner to the meeting room. We signed many autographs and gave away Marlins t-shirts, caps and back-packs. They presented us with an Appreciation gift to the Marlins.
I did a remote live interview with MLB Network following the meet-and-greet. Amazing, the fact that technology allows you to do a live interview from Kuwait via an iPad, back to the states and MLB Network. We had so much fun on the interview, Cliff Floyd video bombed me, creating even more zaniness.
We departed camp, and went into Kuwait City where we arrived at a little league field with 200+ kids and parents chanting “Let’s Go Fish!”…that was pretty cool. We had a Q&A session and signed many, many autographs. Really, a fun way to wrap up a long day!!!
We drove back to camp and stopped at the PX for some of our group to buy towels, shampoo & soap. Then we called it a night.
5:30 a.m. wake-up for a 6:10 bus…military time does not play! At 6:00 a.m. sharp over the loud speakers on the base at a volume of about 10 Revelry blast loud and proud.
Then to my fondest surprise…They played the theme song to my favorite movie, Patton (da na dant da da, na danna dat da da) It was very special, hearing that blare over the speakers all over the base….made me very proud of my country and the young men and women who defend our freedoms. Damn, I love that movie and the theme song will certainly have special meaning for me after hearing it at 6:00 a.m. in that environment.
We drove to Kuwait airport, checked in, and we are sitting here waiting on our flight to our next destination…until next time, this is Dan Jennings signing off…
First of all, thank you to my beautiful wife for the 2:39 a.m. wake up call. Secondly, this morning was a great lesson in appreciation. The latrine is 20 yards from my barrack, there is nothing like walking through a lite rain at 2:30 in morning to use the restroom. So, at 6:30 I make my way to do the three S’s…I have no soap, shampoo, washcloth or towel….so, thus begins the plan of improvising and creativity. I purposely saved my top sheet from my bed last night, when I realized there were no towels. That part was covered. However, the next part was a stroke of survival genius. I strip down for shower, fill my hand with hand soap that is mounted on wall by the sink, dump on my head for shampoo…take my sock & pump some soap into it and there’s the washcloth. This evoked a few stares, especially when I had to come back for more soap! So, I’m clean, (sort of) headed to the PX for breakfast. So today, when you have your shower, be appreciative of the small luxuries we take for granted.
Until next time,
I’ve been presented with a challenge…and my response is the same as to the question “what gift do you get someone that already has everything?”…I have no idea! Some people will say, “oh, it doesn’t matter…it’s the thought that counts.” I can take that response two ways:
1) the gift is irrelevant, it’s the fact that you thought to give them ‘something ‘ that matters
2) it’s the time you spend and the thought that you put in to determining something meaningful
My vote goes to #2. Time is a precious gift…one that can’t be bought nor can it be replaced.
So where am I going with this? Ever since I found out that I was going to be a part of this AFE Tour, one thought has dominated my mind…how am I possibly going to convey the depth of my admiration and appreciation to the men and women I meet during this tour? Again, I have no idea! Saying thank you and passing out t-shirts seems not nearly enough.
And then an interesting thing happened today. Everyone we met was amazingly gracious and thanking US! They are so grateful that we have taken the time to go on this tour to spend time with them. Now how about that! Here I am trying to figure out how to show my appreciation in a meaningful way, and I am humbly reminded that sometimes it really is the thought that counts…and the time that goes into it.
9:42pm Miami time…that’s when it struck me. 40,000 ft above the Atlantic (somewhere between Miami and Frankfort, Germany)…that’s where it struck me. I don’t know if it was inspired by Mumford & Sons Live at Red Rocks, or if it was triggered by thoughts of the upcoming Olympics…but for whatever reason it struck me again that we truly do live in an extraordinary world.
Our world is made up of nearly 7 billion people that all have their own unique talents and gifts. Amazing minds engineered this aircraft…Talented artists bring beauty to our world, both musically and visually. Physical specimens push themselves past what they thought was possible, reminding us that dreams can be achieved if we dedicate ourselves to them. Astronauts, our modern day explorers, are fearlessly determined to discover the unknown. Doctors and nurses dedicate their lives to helping people through phenomenal advancements in medicine. I could go on and on, but the point is, it takes all kinds to make our world go round.
I feel fortunate that my life’s path has provided me the opportunity to know so many unique, inspiring people and share meaningful experiences with them. As I am enjoying my walk down memory lane, I can’t help but wonder about who will be next. Oh, I know a little bit about them, but I can’t wait to meet them and hear their stories. In my opinion, they possess some of the most admirable traits…honor, integrity, selflessness and loyalty to name a few. They are the men and women of the US military that day after day serve our country defending our freedom. As a part of the contingent from the Miami Marlins, we are embarking on a week-long tour with Armed Forces Entertainment to spend time with troops in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. This is the fifth AFE Tour for the Marlins, and I am humbled and honored to be a part of it.
Undoubtedly, this experience will leave it’s mark on my soul, add countless new friends along the way and once again remind me of all the exceptional people that make up our extraordinary world.