In 2010, just 8 months after I opened the Danvers studio, I wrote this blog post in the barre n9ne® November Newsletter. Since I enjoyed writing it so much and many new clients have joined barre n9ne® since 2010, it has become a tradition for me to re-share this write-up each November. Enjoy.
Many of you know that from 2005-2008 I was a New England Patriots Cheerleader. The number one question I am asked when people find this out is “Was that so much fun???” Now obviously the calendar shoots, games, promotions, endless practices and the bittersweet trip to the Super Bowl in Arizona top my list as amazing times during these 3 years….but nothing compares to the experience I am about to share with you…
In 2006, my second year on the team, I was selected along with 5 other women to represent our team and travel overseas to entertain the troops and boost morale for our annual Operations Seasons Greeting Tour (OSG as we like to call it!). Now let me share an inside detail with you….when you are a Patriots Cheerleader you hope, pray and cross your fingers that YOU are selected for this tour so you can IMAGINE the joy and excitement that rushed through my body when I received the call from my coach one day that I was one of the 6 invited to go on the OSG Tour. Think of the most amazing thing that could ever happen to you and multiply it by 1,000,000!
The OSG tour is about 2 weeks long. We travel with the Air Force and leave before Thanksgiving and return after the beginning of December. Because a two week tour could not possibly be summarized in this blog I will share you with you two eye opening experiences from this trip.
During the tour we traveled to Incirlik Turkey, Ramstein Germany, two bases in Iraq, one base in Afghanistan and one base in Quatar. In a nutshell, one November day we departed Boston and landed in Georgia at the Air Force Base. Two hours later departed Georgia on a military plane for Turkey which would become our “home base” for the next 2 weeks.
Upon arriving in Incirlik we were greeted by our Chief who would be responsible for keeping us safe for the next two weeks…..what a huge responsibility! We were given our agenda for the next two weeks in a very long briefing then shown to our rooms. From there the craziness began….tons of meet and greets, practices, performances, autograph signings, interviews, flights from here to there, more briefings, rules, secret locations disclosed to us minutes before landing….you name it, we did it. It was amazing.
On Thanksgiving we arrived in Iraq and were brought to the soccer field where Saddam executed the soccer team…this is where we were performing on Thanksgiving night….intense. When we got out of the plane we were quickly brought behind the stage into a “dressing room” where we got as dolled up as we could with the wind blowing tons and tons of sand around….I could literally scratch my head and pull out sand….and we were supposed to look “glamourous” Yeah Right. When it was our turn to take the stage we took off our warm up suits and headed up the stairs IT WAS FREEZING! I kept thinking, ” I can’t believe my family is sitting around the dining room table right now having Thanksgiving dinner and I am in Iraq.”
At this point my heart dropped…….as I looked out into crowd, there weren’t just a few people waiting for us to perform…there were hundeds, maybe thousands of troops lined up for miles and miles into the darkness waiting for the performance we were about to give. I couldn’t believe it.
After we danced we were brought to a side table where we would take photos and autograph our team posters. All the troops we had just danced for lined up to meet us. We were there until about 2 or 3am signing. The line went on forever. We told our coach we didn’t want to leave until we met every last person. It was incredible. We met men, women, older, younger, married, single, kids, no kids, etc from all over the world. Get this….each one thanking US for coming. I couldn’t believe it. These men and women, who are fighting for our freedom everyday, risking their lives, are thanking US for giving up our Thanksgiving with our families to visit them? It didn’t seem right. All you could hear down the table from our girls was “No, thank YOU for all that you do.” It was breathtaking.
During the signing I met an attractive young man who had a smile that could light up the room. He exchanged jokes with us, made us laugh, asked us where we were from, told us a little about himself, took a photo with us, received his signed poster and moved along. We smiled at each other. I figured I would never see him again.
A few days later while we were visiting a military hospital we were brought into the rooms where the most critically wounded troops were. Guess who I am faced with…the same charming, once smiling young man I had met only a few days prior, however, now his whole life has been changed.
The short story is that he stepped on a landmine and lost both legs along with numerous other injuries. The tears started flowing as my teammate and I realized who he was. We squeezed his hand and each gave him a long hug. Although this selfless man could hardly speak, he thanked US for coming to visit him and told us how much he enjoyed the show. I could not believe it.
Whew! Now if you are tearing up, I apologize. I know our emails/blog posts are typically motivating and uplifting and not tear jerkers!
At this time, as we approach the holiday season I feel it is so important to give back, appreciate our freedom, appreciate our loved ones and be grateful for all that we have. As you spend your Thanksgiving with your family sitting around the long table surrounded by endless appetizers, foods, drinks and desserts, I encourage you to take a moment to think of those who are not spending Thanksgiving with their families because they are overseas risking their lives and fighting for our freedom.
For those of you whose mother or father, son or daughter, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, brother or sister, aunt or uncle is overseas at this time, my heart goes out to you. For those of you who have lost someone while they were fighting for our country, please accept my heartfelt condolences. I know I speak on behalf of all the staff members at barre n9ne® when I say we are so thankful for the men and women who are fighting/have fought for our freedom.