SANDY BUT NOT A BEACH
July 6, 2004 – Want to attempt something difficult, perhaps impossible? Say the word “Iraq” and try to envision happy faces at the same time. Didn’t happen for you, did it? That may change momentarily.
The U.S. efforts in Iraq are the subject of great debate and tomes of propaganda. There’s no chance of resolving those issues here. I wouldn’t even try. But few people would dispute the seriousness of the mission, as it relates to the well-being of our soldiers. Suffer a lapse of attention, and someone could get hurt. Or worse. So the trick is to put on a stone face 24/7, and keep things ultra-serious at all times, right? Maybe not.
It seems that the human spirit requires the normality of laughter once in a while, in order to recharge and sharpen one’s focus. That is according to the experts in the field. The “field”, in this case, being Iraq. “We do have our daily sports banter all the time,” wrote Sgt. Robert Hauser of Westfield, MA in a June 22, 2004 email to Yankeeshater.com, shortly after ordering a cap through the website. “We have to live and work with Evil Empire fans everyday. So the (Yankeeshater.com) hats were a great tool in deflating their egos.” The 29-year-old Hauser, a loyal Red Sox fan, wrote the email from Iraq, where he serves in the U.S. Army assigned to the 1st Armored Division. He has spent roughly 15 months in Iraq. Serious work, to be certain. But it’s not without its light moments. As it turns out, putting Red Sox fans and Yankees fans together in close quarters may actually have some therapeutic value.
“Practical jokes are pretty commonplace,” writes Sgt. Hauser. “When there is no mission going on, we take time from the daily grind to unwind, otherwise we would go nuts.” “We were so excited just to show (our caps) to the Yankee fans in the unit. Boy, do they get angry about little things.” Sgt. Hauser will be leaving Iraq shortly and heading off to Kuwait (2 weeks) and Germany (“a couple months”). He expects to get “leave” sometime in August, and is understandably excited to return home for a spell. The scenery will change greatly from the washed-out, sandy horizons of the Iraq desert to the plush, green landscape of the Northeast. Though one has to wonder if his experience as a sports fan will change much. “Everyday, we have to listen to (the Yankee fans in the unit tell) the story about last year’s Game 7,” Sgt. Hauser wrote. “We just keep our heads up and tell them this is our year”.
Sgt. Hauser and some others in his unit make time to show their loyalty for their beloved Red Sox, and this is not a one-way street: this season, Red Sox relief ace Keith Foulke has been showing his appreciation for the U.S. troops in Iraq by wearing a U.S. flag on his cap. Though MLB recently required Foulke to remove the flag from his cap, the resulting media attention allowed Foulke an opportunity to express his strong, pro-military convictions: “I’m a patriotic person, and it’s just a personal thing that I wanted to do,” Foulke was quoted as saying in an AP article. “I think I should be allowed to honor (the troops) by wearing that hat.” Sgt. Hauser was touched by Foulke’s appreciation, and he’s not alone: “I think Keith Foulke is awesome,” wrote Hauser in a follow-up email on July 5, 2004. “I think [what Foulke said] is the best thing I have heard from a baseball player in a long time. He has earned the respect of a lot of people in the military.”
We first encountered Sgt. Hauser shortly after he ordered the Yankeeshater.com cap that many refer to as the “Schilling” version. We sent samples of all of our other versions (e.g., Seattle, NY, Baltimore, etc.) as well, in the hope that they would bring a bit of fun to a serious situation. Sgt. Hauser quickly scouted out his unit for like-minded fans in an effort to find proper “homes” for the caps.
Sgt. Hauser’s pro-Sox/anti-Yankees brigade included SSG Robert Wing of Saugus, MA, CPT Chad Corrigan of Rehobeth, MA and SPC Christopher Murray of Newport, RI. But Sgt. Hauser also received West Coast reinforcement from Sgt. Grey Tesh of Seattle, WA. This crew gathered in front of an AH-64A Apache helicopter to create an Iraq photo that can’t possibly elicit anything but smiles (see photo above). Still, Sgt. Hauser wishes that the photo could have included a few others in his unit. “We couldn’t get the Baltimore fan in there to do the “mission”, but we will in the future,” wrote Sgt. Hauser, suggesting that other photos may be forthcoming. “I can’t seem to find any Mets fans that hate the Yankees yet. I know they are out there, though.”
Maybe they were all at Shea Stadium this past weekend (July 2-4), watching the Mets pummel the Yanks in a three-game sweep. How about another round of smiles, this time for the Mets fans? It’s the best therapy around.
(This article was written by Michael Moorby, CEO of Rebel Forces, LLC. He will continue to provide glimpses into his experiences with the company—including accounts of some of the interesting path-crossings he encounters—until people plead with him to stop).