BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Service members who are deployed to Afghanistan rarely enjoy first-class entertainment up close and personal.
However, they were blessed with the grace of the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders as they entertained the troops at Bagram Air Field Sept. 29, 2012. Four cheerleaders and two former Dolphins players arrived at Bagram with the sole purpose of entertaining the troops.
The cheerleaders and former players are scheduled to visit six forward operating bases in Afghanistan in an attempt to bring some entertainment and joy to as many service members as possible during their seven-day trip.
“It makes my heart happy to be here and see the smiling faces on everyone I meet,” said Samantha Ruiz, a fourth-year cheerleader with the Dolphins.
Ruiz, a native of Miami and full-time student at Florida International University said, “I met a lot of amazing people with great stories. This has been a once in a lifetime experience.”
The cheerleaders entertained an audience comprised of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian contractors with a dance routine to the summer hit “Call Me Maybe” and ample photo opportunities. They signed autographs and spoke one-on-one with fans late into the evening Saturday.
“This means the world to me to be here and bring a little piece of home to the troops who are sacrificing so much for us,” said Natalie Diaz, a cheerleader in her fourth year with the team.
Diaz, a classical pianist in her spare time, added, “This trip has been life changing and makes me really think of all the things we take for granted back home.”
Amy Madil, an Orlando, Fla., native and fifth-year cheerleader with the Dolphins has been to 12 countries so far visiting service members during her tenure. One of her most memorable trips was when she visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, which provides medical treatment to those injured during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“To be able to sit down and spend roughly 30 minutes talking to a wounded soldier is very sobering and made such an impact on me,” Madil said. “I have such high respect for all our troops.”
Madil added, “Everyone is surprisingly in such good spirits. It’s so motivating to be around these amazing soldiers, and they are so kind to us. I’m going to tell everyone back home how fantastic all of these troops are.”
In addition to the cheerleaders, the troops were entertained by two former Miami Dolphins players. Former Dolphins tight end Troy Drayton and wide receiver O.J. McDuffie spoke with the crowd in between cheerleader dance routines. They asked some Dolphins trivia questions and to the delight of fans passed out autographed footballs.
U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Majors from the 411th Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, stationed at Bagram was ecstatic to get his picture taken with the cheerleaders and get their autographs.
“It’s a great morale booster,” said Majors. “It puts everyone in such a good mood. It was well worth the wait in line to meet them in person.”
The youngest of the four cheerleaders that visited Bagram was 19-year-old Lily Watters, a native of Miami and current Miami Dade College student.
“It’s so great to be here,” said Watters. “To be one of four girls chosen out of 44 is such an honor and something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”