It's been an exhilarating whirlwind so far. We are about halfway done with our USO trip and it feels like we just got started.
Right now, I'm checking in for the first time from an airport in the Middle East. I'm with three other NFL players: Akiem Hicks, Will Svitek and Brian Banks.
Over the next four days, we will be getting on four more flights and visiting two more countries. While we are still fighting some jet lag, everyone is full of energy and having a lot of fun visiting troops and getting a small glimpse into their everyday lives abroad.
Today, we were able to visit the operations center and see where the majority of decisions are made and intelligence is gathered on everything that goes on in Iraq and the Middle East.
The troops seem to be in good spirits and genuinely excited to have us visit and bring a touch of home to them.
A highlight for us was going to the shooting simulator with some troops and having them teach us how to operate and reload their weapons. We shot compressed air, firing at targets with lasers tracking our accuracy. The following day we got to visit the explosive ordnance disposal unit, they showed us their bomb suit and let us control their robots.
Later that night, we were put on stage before an autograph session and answered questions from a crowd of troops. It was great to see how up to date they were and engaged with football even while on a nine-month deployment.
It's fun for me to see foreign countries and see things I would never normally get to see. I enjoy coming out here and devoting my time to say thanks, just as I did when I traveled to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan with the USO in 2012.
I think it's important to support our troops because their job isn't easy. They have a tough life despite all the work many people do to make it easier. I am sure it's tough being away from friends and family.
I can't say I understand where they are all coming from, but I hope saying hello and thank you makes their stay out here a little easier because they do important work every day.