By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Dec. 18, 2012 – This year, Ross Detwiler, a left-handed starting pitcher with the Washington Nationals, joined the USO holiday tour, traveling with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the chairman’s senior enlisted advisor, and USO President Sloan D. Gibson.
“This is on a major level,” Detwiler said. “This is like the biggest thing you could possibly do. Just to see the reaction of the troops [because] of us being out here — it’s pretty incredible. It’s really loud.”
Detwiler, a St. Louis native, who is touring with his teammate, Craig Stammen, and fellow professional athlete and National Hockey League player, Matt Hendricks, who plays center for the Washington Capitals, said he didn’t assume anything before joining the tour.
“I had no expectations,” Detwiler said. “I’ve never been through anything like this. I really just didn’t know what to expect at all. We’ve seen what the soldiers go through and it’s just been great.”
“It’s really kind of unspeakable unless you’re over here,” he said. “All we have is media coverage, and they kind of tend to tell you whatever they want you to know.”
The southpaw pitcher, who at times last year touched 97 mph with his fastball, has shared his USO experiences with comedian Iliza Schlesinger, winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing; Country music singer Kellie Pickler, and her band, and Shane Hudella, of “Defending the Blue Line,” an organization that donates hockey equipment to military families.
Detwiler expressed how moved he was during a visit to some excited wounded warriors during this tour.
“We got to go to a hospital, one of the most powerful things we’ve actually seen,” he said.
“It was so awesome seeing” the wounded service members,” Detwiler said, noting the troops “were pretty pumped.”
Detwiler, who was married Dec. 1, interrupted his honeymoon to join the USO tour.
“Well, you know, when I got the phone call asking to come here, I knew it was going to cut my honeymoon off a little bit,” he said. “But when else am I’m going to get a chance to give back like I am now?
“My wife, my family — they all understood,” Detwiler continued. “They all thought the same thing. So we made the decision we had to drop everything and get over here because this is my only chance.”
Detwiler expressed his gratitude to U.S. service members for the sacrifices they’re making.
“We couldn’t be doing what we’re doing without you guys,” he said. “This is really just incredible. We thank you for everything and you make our country the best country in the world.”