Heavy Medal Tour Olympians rock JBB
Story and photo by Pfc. Lisa A. Cope
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team visited service members at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, April 13, as part of the first Armed Forces Entertainment Heavy Medal Tour.
The team, which won a total of seven medals, including one gold and six silver, at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, is the first U.S. team to win an Olympic medal in a Nordic combined event.
Members of the team, Billy Demong, Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane and Brett Camerota, visited the Air Force Theater Hospital and Morale, Welfare and Recreation center east during their visit to JBB.
Capt. Michael B. Mendoza, an intelligence officer with 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment –Taskforce Bandit, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a New Orleans native, met the team during its visit.
Mendoza said the visit was good for the morale of the troops and he hopes to see more events like this one.
"It is good to see that people are willing to come over here, regardless of the threat," he said. "(They are) taking the time out of their schedule to come see us. It shows that they care about what we are doing, that it is not meaningless."
Lodwick, a Steamboat Springs, Colo., native, said he and each of his team members gave up vacation time to do the tour because they believed it would be an important experience for them.
Lodwick said he understands how difficult it can be to be away from loved ones for an extended period of time, which motivated him to visit service members serving away from their families.
"We also miss our families," he said. "We travel throughout the season, from November to March, gone almost five months a year. It gets hard being away from home."
Time away from home is not the only difficult similarity that Soldiers have with professional athletes, said Lodwick.
"We do not get paid a lot of money," he said. "The travel, living out of a bag, and basically following a regimen of training to be the best in the world. (We have) those similarities in common with the armed forces. We do not put our life on the line like (they) do, but we do know what it takes to become the best and the dedication it takes to achieve greatness."
Members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team, Brett Camerota, Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong, pose for a picture with their Olympic silver medals, during their visit to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, April 13, as part of the first Armed Forces Entertainment Heavy Medal Tour. (U.S. Army photo by: Pfc. Lisa A. Cope)