Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz recently traveled to the Middle East, part of an NFL-USO Tour, along with Matt Millen and Merrill Hoge. The former Bengals great filed a running diary of the trip for NFL.com and bengals.com.
Our NFL/USO tour wrapped up with a packed schedule! After a busy day on Friday visiting three bases, FOB Ghormach, FOB Griffin and Camp Spann, we spent Friday night at Camp Spann. After a good night of sleep we got up Saturday for breakfast with our transportation, two Blackhawk helicopters, waiting for us to continue our visits to the bases. We visited four bases on Saturday, starting with FOB Khelegey, then it was off to FOB Kunduz, followed by FOB Hairatan and finally Camp Deh Dadi II.
An amazing thing happened at Camp Deh Dadi II while we were having dinner. As we were finishing up and mingling with the troops, I was talking to a group of soldiers and glanced over at another table and saw the face of a young woman that I thought that I recognized, sitting with two young men. The young woman approached me and said, "You probably don't remember me but I was one of your Straight 'A' scholarship winners several years back."
My Foundation recognizes high school seniors each year who show a high level of academic and athletic success while overcoming adversity. Her name is Jeralee Hartman and she attended Western Brown High School (near Cincinnati). She then proceeded to tell me that the other two men that she was sitting with were also from Cincinnati. Wow, what a small world!
Our final stop on Saturday night in Afghanistan was back to Mazar-E-Sharif/Camp Marmal. As you may remember, this was our first stop when we arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday. We spent the night here on Saturday with plans to return to Qatar on Sunday but our transportation was delayed, so it turned into a day of relaxation, which was appreciated after two very busy days. We ended up flying out of Afghanistan at 3 a.m. Monday and traveled to Doha, Qatar, where we rested for about seven hours before returning to the United States.
After all of the traveling and time changes, I arrived in Cincinnati at 10 a.m. and headed straight for some coffee so that I could stay up late enough to get back on Eastern time.
This was an incredibly humbling trip and I am thankful for the opportunity to make the trip. I want to say THANK YOU to all of our troops and I am grateful to each of you that I met during this journey.
If you would like to learn more about my travels or my Foundation, please become a fan on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. And again, thanks to the NFL, the USO and everyone who worked so hard to put this visit together. It's something I'll never forget.