DESERT STORM 25 YEARS LATER – A DHAHRAN CLIPPER THANKSGIVING WITH THE NAVY SEALS

Posted: November 24, 2015 in Uncategorized
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It seems just like yesterday.  Americans, Canadians, British and other nationalities were living in Arabia and in an unprecedented show of support they brought into their homes members of the military for a small break from the Arabian Desert.  Never in the history of the world has there been such an outflow for military men and women from civilians near the pending front line.

The Dhahran Clippers was the undisputed softball champion of the Middle East. With an average age of 39, the players were at a point in life that competitive softball should have ended years earlier.  If would be years in the future before the players finally hung up their spikes but not before dominating the sport.  At the time of the war the team had won 11 Mid-East Softball Championships and six Saudi Arabian Championships and the only Bahrain championship.  The team had various former military members to include members of the Nuclear Navy, Navy Seabees, A Navy Pilot, Navy surface warfare officer, Army National Guard and other branches and units.  Patriotism was present and every Wednesday night the team hosted a softball team from the Navy Seals, played softball and treated them to a home cooked meal.

In early November, Curt, the senior NCO SEAL approached Loren Schoenholtz and asked if he could arrange for Thanksgiving lunch for the elite special forces team.  The work then began.  Instead of a large single meal Loren arranged for members of the community to bring the men into their homes for a smaller more traditional meal.  Pete Hawkins would stop people in the parking lot of ARAMCO Dhahran, ask if they would host a SEAL, take their names and pass it on to Loren.  Finally it was all set.  There would be a softball game at the Hills  Complex, at a certain time the hosts would arrive and pick up their guests, meals would be served and the SEALS would be returned to the SEAL Base at Half Moon Bay.

The SEALS arrived; all 85 of them.  Others went to Jubail to see the President speak for Thanksgiving.  Immediately a communications specialist climbed a light pole, attached an antennae and the unit was in world wide communication.  The game ended and everyone left for Thanksgiving Lunch.

Rich Hunter, a Mormon from El Paso, 42 years old and perennial tournament MVP and I cooked a Turkey and took it to Loren’s for lunch.  At the meal was Curt; a Lt Commander that brought the first SEAL unit into Arabia; another officer and Captain Ray Smith, commander of SEALS on the West Coast and later Admiral Smith, the King SEAL. It was a wonderful lunch.  While Hunter and I pulled the turkey apart, Smith asked to take our picture.  He said that no one in the States would believe how he spent Thanksgiving in Arabia.

It was also there that I discovered that we had a couple of mutual friends.  Carl Swepson, SEAL at Navy Memphis and I knew each other and these men were new in the Team when he was famous for his abilities.  The Lt Commander gradated from the Naval Academy with Rock Hammerick, a member of the Academy Football Team and a person I played ball with at Navy Memphis.  I also learned the bad news that Pappy Reynolds, WWII Frogman, part of the first SEAL Team formed, NCO of Curt’s early Seal Team and retiree had taken his own life after leaving the Navy.

This was my experience with the military during the first Thanksgiving for American troops in a war zone since Viet Nam.  This was isolated. This open generosity and appreciation for the American fighting man and woman was repeated throughout Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone around the world and thanks to all those that will be taking the fight to ISIS.  God Bless

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