Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Invading the South

The American military will invade the Caribbean and South America. But this time it's a good thing, and the soldiers of the Southern Command will be welcomed by the host nations. That doesn't always happen a lot when we go somewhere, but sometimes it does. Always nice to know we are welcomed with open arms. Of course, the biggest danger the military poses this time is how little money they will pump into the local economy.

A baseball team representing U.S. Southern Command will begin a 25-day “friendship tour” to five Latin American nations March 27 to play in exhibition games and conduct free clinics for aspiring players.

The team is scheduled to visit communities in Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile and the Dominican Republic.
But it's not all fun and games, and it never is:

The team - which will also visit schools, hospitals, orphanages and little leagues - will participate in exhibition games with military and civilian teams, and conduct clinics for various age groups.
I've done some of those trips myself. Not playing baseball, but with our Humanitarian Assistance programs every military organization has. And as much as I love playing baseball, I can honestly say the best part of the visits were always the visits to the schools, hospitals, and orphanages. There was usually a truck load of gifts that went with us. That went over well, but the people we visited would brag about how American soldiers came to visit them. And it would make the front page in the local papers, and a couple of times, we were the lead story on the local news. But for some strange reason, you never really hear about this in the American or European press. Odd, isn't it?

The tour, dubbed Baseball Partnership Tour 2009, was planned in coordination with the State Department, host governments and Major League Baseball. It affords players an opportunity to take part in camaraderie-building athletic activities as goodwill representatives of their nation and the sport, officials said.

Now in its second year, the tour represents the command’s ongoing commitment to strengthening friendships with partner nations in the hemisphere through activities that range from combined military training and exercises to personal interaction outside of traditional military settings.
Whatever problems people have with the military, and I don't why they do when they vote for the same politicians year after year, they should get to know the real story of what we do, and how we are received around the world.

Too many people have a negative image of the military, and don't really understand how these things work. But they do, and the military, with the humanitarian assistance programs we have, does a better job fostering a positive image of the United States than the media does of tearing it down.

And the fact that they're using baseball to do it makes it twice as sweet. I've done this. It's a life-changing experience.

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