UK Men's Basketball

Soldiers bask in Blue glow

Steve Tressler, the Armchair Quarterback fan blogger for, pictured on Aug. 26, 2008 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by David Stephenson | Staff
Steve Tressler, the Armchair Quarterback fan blogger for, pictured on Aug. 26, 2008 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by David Stephenson | Staff

By Steve Tressler

Special to the Herald-Leader

DJIBOUTI, Africa — Everyone knows that with military deployments come hardships to service members and their families. No one truly knows how tough it can be unless they've been there themselves. Sometimes, just the absence of the routine with a parent gone for a year can be especially hard on the children.

Never mind the fact that "deployment," at least for reservists, more than likely means ... war.

What you don't hear, though, is that sometimes deployments bring you face to face with people you wouldn't normally have an audience with.

For example, in 1993 the former president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, sat and ate lunch a few seats away from me aboard the USS Tripoli in the Indian Ocean. I shook hands with the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps at that time, Harold G. Overstreet, from my fighting hole outside Mogadishu (Somalia) on Christmas Eve (lucky me). I was featured on NBC's Today Show from Somalia with one of the best reporters I have ever seen, the late David Bloom.

While deployed last time, to Iraq in 2007, I was able to meet country music star Kellie Pickler, UFC champion fighter Tito Ortiz, and even made it on an episode of the Fox network's Geraldo At Large after meeting Geraldo Rivera in the chow hall in Baghdad, the day after my beautiful daughter Kenadee was born.

I don't say this to impress you, but to impress upon you that you never know who supports the troops until, well, they support the troops!

Such was the case for several members of the Kentucky National Guard's Task Force Longrifles, who recently found themselves "Skyping" with none other than University of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari.

Among the many things asked of Coach Cal were: How good can this year's team be? Are you hiding the fact that the Class of 2013 is really good? Are you enjoying the process of recruiting and coaching at UK?

The coach was promised he would be sent a "platoon shirt" by one soldier and Task Force Commander Rob Larkin also thought a battalion "coin" was in order for his efforts. Everyone agreed that would be great.

Coach Calipari, flanked by the adjutant general of Kentucky. Edward W. Tonini, answered all the questions with his usual confidence and cool.

He went on to say that "what you guys (service members) do for this country every day, to me, is incomprehensible. I am so grateful for you guys, thank you."

He then made a promise of his own, saying, "I'll be sending you guys something special as well" and then Coach Calipari held up a huge poster of Doron Lamb's last shot versus Louisville in last year's Final Four matchup that sent Louisville packing and Kentucky tracking their eighth national title.

The poster is icing on the cake, because for these blue-blooded Kentucky soldiers, just talking with Coach Cal was more than enough.