Last week, I had the honor of traveling to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to play for our troops and their families stationed in America's oldest continuously functioning overseas base.
Established in 1903, the Naval Station currently supports the Joint Task Force that oversees the detainees captured in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11. The base also provides Fleet logistical support, employs migrant operations for Cuban and Haitian refugees, and supports contingency/counter-drug operations. During my stay, I was privileged to meet members of all five services and their families, whose sacrifice protects our freedom. It was an illuminating and humbling experience, and not without its share of hockey talk.
I was flown into GITMO on a six-seat C-12 naval aircraft piloted by Lieutenant
Naturally, I got to know my hosts a little bit during my visit. Lt. Anderson told me he flew P-3's in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and that he's married with two children. Given the name of my band, the subject of hockey was never far behind. It turned out that Gitmo has its fair share of avid fans.
For instance, Lt. Anderson is a Penguins fan. Favorite player:
Once in Gitmo, I was given a tour of NE Gate by Corporal
One of DD's duties is to patrol the American/Cuban border fence here. The NE Gate which was a transit point for Americans and Cuban base workers pre-Castro. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro forbade Cuban citizens to work at Gitmo with the exception of 300 who were already employed at the base. Today only three of the 300 are left, crossing through the NE gate daily.
As I made my way around, I kept running into Red Wings fans. Sergeant
Tom was born in Vietnam. As a teenager, he escaped after six failed attempts and found his way to America. His best friend and roommate here is Sgt
Gitmo has two main restaurants, the Windjammer and the Baview, to go with a McDonalds and Subway. In the audience for my Bayview Patio show that night was an iguana the size of my five-year-old daughter. After the gig, I spent two hours talking hockey. First Lieutenant
Note to Commissioner Bettman: Dennis is frustrated that the NHL is not on ESPN as he has a hard time finding the games.
Perhaps the biggest hockey fan in Gitmo is Captain
Captain Leary is also the Commanding Officer here. Last April, he cut the ribbon on a new in-line hockey rink built by MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) adjacent to the basketball courts. On Gitmo, MWR is crucial to the morale of the troops, as it is the only game in town, with weekly movies and sports leagues. I had just missed the Gitmo Extreme, which is best described as an Iron Man race through jelly fish. Craig, Jessica, and Rachel from MWR are currently looking to form a league of hockey teams.
I would like to thank Captain Leary, our servicemen, and their family members stationed in Guantanamo Bay for hosting my trip, along with the
I'm told Captain Leary has a serious slap shot.