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Greetings from Seoul, South Korea!
Lee Salmans taught me that this is a land where Heroes revealed themselves as defenders of Freedom and Liberty! It is an honor to be here to pay my respects to their sacrifice.
I have been on a USO/NFL Tour with the actor Kal Penn. Our mission is to thank the troops for putting their lives on the line to defend our Liberty and Freedom. It is called a "handshake tour" and we are visiting with troops on the different military bases in Hawaii and Korea. I have been impressed with the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. They willingly stand where they stand because of their desire to defend our way of life.
A few days before I left for this tour, I received a letter from my mission president Elder Kent Watson who is serving as a general authority in Hong Kong. He reminded me of John F. Kennedy's words at his 1961 Inaugural Address. President Kennedy said, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
Those were strong and powerful words that are still in effect today. They are words that have been ringing through my ears and pounding in my heart the whole time I have been on this tour. I am accompanied by my Dad who spent six years in the Army as a medical doctor. In fact, I was born at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, when he was stationed there. It has been a real privilege to see my Dad mingle with the troops and laugh and cry with them during each visit. He is the toughest guy I know. He battles life each day with a miracle body. He had a stroke 20 years ago and his left side is still greatly affected as a result. He never complains. He climbs up and down the ladder/stairs of the USS Lake Eerie and he doesn't complain. He goes from shuttle bus to plane, struggling to get in and out each and every time, without complaining. He doesn't give credence to the inconveniences. He doesn't give life to the obstacles. He just keeps battling. He focuses on taking one step at a time, one handshake at a time. This tour could be called a "Hero Tour" because we are paying our respect to the Heroes of the past, while shaking hands with the heroes of today, and the whole time I am walking next to one of my Heroes! Amazing.
Being here is a reminder that football is a gift. It is a great gift that has benefited all of us in many ways. As this football season gets ready to kick off, the anticipation is felt all the way around the world, at every military base, from Djibouti to Kaneohe. The troops are just as pumped as you are for the games to begin, maybe more. Kal and I are here to thank them for their service and all they want to do is thank us for appreciating them and recognizing them and acknowledging them. Nearly every one of them has a favorite team, either pro or college, and most of the time both.
There have been a few BYU fans salted throughout the different bases. They have great passion for the Y. One of the guys named Kyle came up to me at Pearl Harbor and his enthusiasm for BYU Football was busting out of his buttons. He wanted to take a photo with me and he used his camera phone. The phone had a white protective case with a Y logo on the back. He couldn't stop asking questions about the season and the possibilities. I loved visiting with him and talking about the greatest school on earth.
The more I travel around the world for the NFL the more I appreciate what BYU stands for. BYU is a beacon in this world. BYU stands for all that is good. My niece starts school this week at BYU. She is from Burley, Idaho, and is one of the best cloggers on the planet. My wife has been able to help her get things going and commented about the freshmen who gathered this week to receive their formal instruction and move into the dorms. She said that seeing the freshman gather together on campus, looking clean and bright, wearing modest clothing, without tattoos or body piercings, was so powerful she couldn't help from getting emotional at the sight. The world we live in is struggling under the pressures to sink to the lowest possible line of acceptability. BYU continues to rise up to the standard which gives it strength. That is one of the reasons it is a beacon to the world. Vai talked about BYU being Independent, and in many regards they have been for a long time, and they will continue to do so.
The Football team continues to march toward their game with Washington. It is going to be a tough test. The thing I like about this year's team is that they march with determination. They give more credence to what they can do than to what the media thinks they can't. They know they are young, but they compete with enthusiasm and continue pressing forward. They don't give life to their many challenges by dwelling on them. Riley and Jake are a microcosm of the whole team. Their quotes are always positive and strong. They always strive to put the team first. They are both going to play and they are both going to score touchdowns. I can't wait to see the energy they both bring to the team and the crowd in that first game.
Lee Salmans was my 9th Grade football coach. He is one of the toughest guys I have ever known. He fought in the Korean War. He told us about the night patrols he used to lead, and he shared with us the adrenaline that helped keep him alive on those patrols. He is a hero of mine. But he would never allow anyone to call him a hero. He said the heroes were the guys that didn't come home. I appreciate that and I agree, but Lee is still one of my heroes.
As football season gets under way, let's take a second to remember what a gift it is to cheer on the Cougars of BYU. The fact that we live in a free country where we can play such a great game is a blessing. That feeling will help us temper the strong emotions that stir in our hearts as we cheer on this year's BYU team. That feeling will help us show our kids and grandkids what it means to root for the Cougs in a way that inspires the team and brings respect to all things BYU. That feeling will help us cheer on the guys to dominate and to give their best. It will help the team be a beacon to the watching world as they try and represent BYU in all they do. And hopefully, at the end of the day, it will help all of us cheering, both in LaVell Edwards Stadium, and around the whole world, rise up and be a beacon in our efforts to do things the right way.
To the Heroes living and past.