Blog: ‘Holy Ghost’ time in Afghanistan
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
On the morning I was supposed to leave for Afghanistan, my 16-year-old son asked me if I was nervous about going. I told him yes, I guess I’m a little nervous. There’s always a chance something can happen, even though the people I am with do everything in their power to make sure we are safe. We all know that’s the case every time we walk outside our front door. I will say, I would probably be a bit more nervous going to the mall if I had guys with machine guns hanging on each side of my car.
As I was waiting to board my plane in Springfield, Mo., I got some terrible news in the form of an e-mail from David Feherty. He said that two days earlier he had emergency ear surgery and his ear canals had swollen shut. The doctors were telling him that if he went on this long flight and then on the helicopters in Afghanistan it could be detrimental to his long-term hearing. Because of this news he was forced to stay home. He was not happy at all and his colorfully-worded e-mail clearly let us know how he felt about missing the trip.
In my opinion David Feherty is not only one of the funniest people in golf; he is one of the funniest people in this country. He is clever, witty, sarcastic, unfiltered, (I could go on) and just not right in the head. Feherty spends a great deal of time helping American service men and women, and especially our wounded warriors. Everyone was disappointed to hear the news that he would not be making the trip.
So off I went, first from Springfield to Chicago, then Chicago to Washington D.C., and finally Washington D.C. to the beautiful country of Kuwait. My 9 a.m. departure from Springfield put me in Kuwait City at 2 p.m. the following day. This time frame is the second-worst part of the trip for me, with the worst part being the trip home.
The Kuwait City airport is quite busy and I don’t have to tell you that Americans might stick out a little bit. There were lots eyeballs on us and I felt like an animal in a zoo getting ready to do a trick. Last year we had a full undercover security detail making sure we got where we needed to go. This year we were on our own. I missed those guys in the bulletproof vans. After our arrival in Kuwait City, we were driven 45 minutes to Ali Al Salem Air Base, which is 23 miles from the border of Iraq.
We would be staying at this base for the evening before heading off to Kandahar in the morning. There are a wide variety of military people at this base, with lots of people in transition either going home for some R&R or heading back to where they are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
After we got settled in, we headed to the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) building to meet up with some soldiers. Because they didn’t know when we were going to arrive, they didn’t have anything planned, so this was a very impromptu gathering.
On the way to the MWR, we walked past a small chapel and I heard singing. I was curious to see what was going on as it sounded like very lively gospel music. Sure enough, when I popped my head in the door I could see seven or eight people up front getting after it. The group was made up entirely of African-Americans. As I stood there I thought this little shack in the middle of Kuwait could’ve been any small church in America.
These folks were smiling and singing and having a great time. And although Simon Cowell would not have given them a trip to Hollywood no one seemed to care. I sure didn’t.
Later, one of the gentlemen stopped by the MWR and we visited for a few moments. I asked him what was going on and he said they were having choir practice. He said, “Actually we were done with choir practice, but that was our, ‘Holy Ghost’ time.”
The MWR building would prove to be a great place for country singer Matt Snook to take out his guitar and sing. Matt has an inviting personality and a great voice. We traveled together last year in Iraq and I got to see firsthand how good he is and how much our military enjoy spending time with him.
As Matt began to sing, people started to gather around and I even got the gospel guru to join in. He was a bit hesitant at first but it was great watching two lovers of music work it out.
While this was going on, master illustrator Victor Juhasz began to work his magic. Juhasz has drawn the pictures for Feherty’s magazine articles and books for many years. I sat and watched in amazement as Juhasz would take his pencils and paper and within 10 minutes bring someone’s image to life right in front of his or her eyes.
One of the gentlemen who came by was Chief Warrant Officer Adam Martin from Moline, Ill. The picture that Juhasz drew could’ve been a picture that somebody took with the camera. Martin also received a free golf club and was thrilled to see that it was a Cobra. He told me he was a big fan of Cobra and hoped it would help him hit it straighter.
I then met a young man who looked like he could still be in high school. Private Ralph Anthony from Ft. Campbell, Ky., was on his way back home to see family and friends in Hillsdale, Mich.
Ralph walked up while somebody was asking us where we were headed. When he heard us say Afghanistan, he simply said, “Those mountains suck!”
Not old enough to vote or buy beer, Ralph had seen his first firefight just a few days earlier. I asked him what that felt like and he said it was pretty wild. He heard a bang from a distant place and then heard a bullet whiz by. He said he jumped into a 2 foot trench and was forced to stay there for about two hours until he could safely move.
He said he was amazed at how good they could shoot. He knew the enemy was a long way off because he would hear a bang and then it would be a couple seconds before the bullet flew past.
He said, “I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, these dudes have been fighting since they were 10 years old.”
All I could think was, what a way to live. It made me grateful for men like Adam Martin and Ralph Anthony. We have it easy. When my son was 10, he was playing Army but it was for fun in the backyard.
Tomorrow we head for Afghanistan.
More pictures can be found on Facebook at (danboevergolf)