Apr 20, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
Reader’s of “Around the Campfire with Bill” here on the NBCSports site knew how honored and pumped up I was to be included in the Armed Forces Entertainment/Paralyzed Veterans of America Outdoor Legends Tour. Then, with departure for the Tour set for a Monday morning word came late the preceding Friday night, that the Tour – at least the portion I in which I was to participate – was indefinitely postponed.
Turns out the group with whom I was to travel was to be spending a big chunk of the time in Afghanistan, and that was right when things heated up surrounding at accidental burning of the Qurans at a U.S. base. Those in charge of the Tour, and getting us there and home safely, wisely decided to pull the plug for our group. It was just too dangerous, and those troops had a lot more important things to deal with than keeping a bunch of celebs alive.
The other half of the Legends made the trip as their itinerary included areas farther outside the hot zone including places like Kuwait and elsewhere the U.S. has service men and women on duty. Their visits were highly appreciated by the men and women they saw, and their reports of the experience only strengthened my enthusiasm for making the trip myself. However, with the ever-changing landscape of politics and fighting in Southwest Asia, I couldn’t build confidence that our group would actually get to make the journey.
Then an e-mail arrived from Washington last week with the great news! Details are sketchy (as they have to be for security reasons), but our group leader Lt. Col. Lew Deal, USMC (ret) with the PVA confirmed we’ll be headed to Southwest Asia this summer on a new schedule and with a new itinerary. The Outdoor Legends Tour 1.1 is on!
I will be joining Jim Shockey, Brenda Valentine, and Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland along with Col. Deal to shake hands, sign autographs, take pictures and share the message of how much America’s outdoorsfolk appreciate the sacrifice, and remind them how much we’re looking forward to having them in the field with us when they return home.
Col. Deal, PVA-ORHF team leader, who was the guiding light behind creation of the tour, said he believes this Tour represents the first time personalities from the outdoor world have been organized to meet the troops in person. “For those currently serving in a war zone there are few things that mean as much as knowing the folks back home care about you. This is a unique gathering of well-known television hosts, industry leaders and recognized outdoor personalities who are taking the time to tell our troops—in person and face-to-face, that the outdoor community cares about them and is eager to welcome them home…and back into the outdoors.”
The Outdoor Legends Tour 1.1 will spend 10 days touring bases in Southwest Asia, meeting as many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines as time allows. “It’s a hand-shake tour,” Deal said. “There will be no production crews, no agents or sponsors…just high-profile outdoor people mingling with the troops, posing for some personal photos and saying ‘Thank you for your service.’”
I will keep ATC blog readers posted as best I can as the trip comes together … again. And rest assured, I’ve kept your messages and comments, that I will take with me to pass along to the troops. And please, leave more comments with your thoughts and well wishes. The more the better!
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