When Kenny Moore learned that the USO tour he had signed up for was headed to Fairbanks, Alaska, he hesitated. Should he go, he wondered?
The Indianapolis Colts cornerback is certainly glad he did.
“I had never thought of going to Alaska before, it’s so far north,” he says. “It was pretty cool to take that out, though. The USO tour people said it was between Alaska and Hawaii, and I said I’m pretty sure they’d pick Hawaii. They came back to me and said Alaska I was speechless I never thought I would go.
“Then to see how beneficial Alaska is for the military, how much space they can use for the plane, especially for training and practice, was awesome. I couldn’t imagine having to be as well equipped but not having as much practice and space.We saw they had what they needed in Alaska.
Joined by Broncos tight end Andrew Beck and Browns running back Demetric Felton Jr., Moore marveled at the conditions the military has to contend with. And by their determination and ingenuity – things that every professional athlete can relate to.
“I had never heard too many descriptions of what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Moore says, “but obviously being in Alaska it’s very difficult to have your own way of life. It’s very cold there, and I really appreciate what they’re doing. It’s indicative of the sacrifices they make.
Beck, who won the 2021 USAA Salute to Service award the NFL gives out annually, was equally impressed. He comes from a military family – Beck’s father went to West Point – so he feels closely connected to the armed forces.
Talking with personnel from the various bases in Alaska was moving, as was a virtual meeting with service members in Europe.
“Obviously when you think of Alaska, you think of the conditions, and for a lot of them, their families don’t come with them,” Beck says. “Whether it’s day or dark all the time, minus 40 degrees, no matter what, and the people there are able to do their jobs. That kind of defines what our military is.
“We got to see the F-35 squadron, learn why they are up there and the capabilities of those planes, and talk to the ground crews, and teamwork – and how they can connect the team to football . It was filled with complete experiences.
Well, not quite complete. The trio of players didn’t get a chance to take off in any of the throws.
“It wasn’t an option, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked it,” Beck laughs. “We’ve all asked, but they’re top secret.”
Other highlights of the trip were mission briefings, participation in K-9 drills — Beck and Fulton wore protective vests and let the dogs chase them — and a football clinic with service members and their families.
“I understand why we went there,” Beck said. “Due to the conditions and hardships of being stationed in Alaska, we realized our goal, to lighten the mood of our military members and their families.”
Not necessarily the highlights were seeing a moose on the shoulder of a causeway – neither player wanted to get close – and an ice fishing company.
Still, even though they didn’t catch anything, it was an adventure as the players regrouped, headed to the ice and cast their lines, of sorts.
“It was cold, honestly,” Moore says. “I don’t remember complaining too much about the cold, I was just enjoying everyone being there. But after an hour there…I’ve definitely never done this before, I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again.
What they will most likely do again is another USO tour, events that have taken place since 1941 and have included artists such as Bob Hope and Dinah Shore for a long time, and more recently, The Rock and Toby Keith. Many athletes participated, including Hall of Famers Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Johnny Unitas.
“I think if it was Alaska again,” Moore says, “I would definitely be in. I would definitely go on another USO tour.
Maybe without the ice peach, though.
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