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Miami Dolphins spend Super Bowl Sunday with troops in Afghanistan

CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan — Two former players for the Miami Dolphins and five members of the team’s cheerleading squad swapped the sand and sun of South Florida for snow at Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan to meet with troops on the eve of the Super Bowl.

Troops based at Camp Marmal turned out to meet the former players and cheerleaders and get autographs.

Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Derrick Rodgers, who served in the Air Force before being drafted into the NFL, spent two of his four years in the service in Okinawa.

“Me coming over here is part of my giving back, because I understand that being over here sometimes can be monotonous,” Rodgers told Stars and Stripes. “You’re going through this situation, and not being appreciated is one of the biggest things that goes on in their minds.

“So when I get back and tell everybody what happened, I’m going to tell them there is a lot of individuals out here that care about their country,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers, former NFL fullback Lousaka Polite and the cheerleaders were on a trip organized by Armed Forces Entertainment, a Defense Department agency that provides entertainment to U.S. military overseas.

They signed autographs for the troops, posed for pictures, and had servicemembers sign a Dolphins banner that was to be brought back and hung in the stadium in Miami.

Jamie Quadrozzi, events coordinator for the team, said the Miami Dolphins have been participating in such “morale booster” trips since 2001.

“We do at least one tour a year, and sometimes we do more than one. This is our third tour in Afghanistan,” she said. “All the rest of the 37 cheerleaders that we left at home are dying to be here. For a trip like this, it’s a big deal for us. So we chose our top five girls, and they always say yes. They always want to be here.”

As Super Bowl Sunday turned to Super Bowl Monday in Afghanistan — the game aired live at 4:30 a.m. — the troops made their way to the USO at Camp Marmal for the official viewing party. Most of those interviewed admitted to not being fans of either the Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks, who won 43-8, and said they were disappointed with the play.

“I’m from Miami, so I like to support the Dolphins. So I was watching it for the thrill of it,” said Pfc. Luis Ortiz, with Company D, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment. “Usually you hope for the Super Bowl to be a really close game, but it was just a blowout. I was disappointed that it wasn’t even close at all.”

“Manning has to do better next time,” said Sgt. Sergio Lujan, also with the 1-227 and a Redskins fan, referring to Denver quarterback Payton Manning. “The Manning curse is going on, so he has to break that curse and keep the family going strong.”

Lujan and Ortiz both said the outcome of the game was not that important. “It’s pretty much about trying to have as much fun as possible. You’re in a combat area, but you’re just trying to have a good time with soldiers, fellow enlisted and officers,” Lujan said. “We’re just trying to make the best of the situation. We’ve got snow out here and it can’t get any worse I don’t think.”

“It’s different, because we don’t have the same amenities that we have at home,” Ortiz said. “But I’m with the people I’m close with, my boss — we’re all friends, so it was good watching with them.”

The Dolphins contingent had planned to travel to some of the surrounding forward operating bases in Regional Command North, but heavy snow prevented their travel.

Grace — one of the cheerleaders, who were not permitted to give their last names — welcomed the change of scenery from her home in Florida. “It’s completely different from Miami.”

pena.alex@stripes.com

 

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