Coach Berenato's Trip for the Troops: Day 5

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The heat was strong, but everyone was so pleasant. Add to 125 degrees uniforms, vests, boots, and a helmet in the sun and not one complaint. Orlando (Louisiana Monroe) said, "Just wait till one of my men say Hey coach, it's hot - I'll say, I'll show you hot." I will never ever complain about the heat again - how is the sunshine in Pittsburgh? The highlight for me was in the beginning of the meet and greet CSM Farmer, the top man over all helicopter flights and attacks, met with us and showed us a film on some battle tactics. My heart was racing, hands were sweating, and my eyes were glued to the monitor. It was fascinating. We were all delighted to be coined by CSM Farmer with a ground and air mobility coin.

Trip for the Troops
Coach Berenato's Trip for the Troops: Day 4

Coach Berenato's Day 4

Coach Berenato's Day 3

Coach Berenato's Day Two

Coach Berenato's Day One

Pitt's Berenato to visit U.S. troops overseas

In such a time of stress, everyone is so giving. In the extreme heat, everyone is so cool. In the time of battle, everyone is so prepared. These troops have a joy in their hearts to serve and commit to a higher purpose - The United States.

We had a 15 minute break before dinner and I was excited to shower and cool off. There was a knock at my door and Billy (Murray State) said he needed a favor. and asked if I could come down to the coaches room to meet a soldier. It was there that I met Steve Bell who was from Franklin, PA and a huge Pittsburgh fan. After exchanging greetings, Steve told me of his struggle the last two weeks with the LA Fitness shootings. My legs went weak and goosebumps went up and down my arm as he recalled reading the e-mail that told him of the death of his closest childhood friend, Jodi Billingsley. As I listened I sensed his pain 8,000 miles away. He told me her funeral was Wednesday and they had photos of him and Jodi throughout their childhood and young adult life. He spoke of a particular photo that was on the story board at her service. Jodi and him together in their snow suits at age 4. Wow, talk about fate. We shared and I listened and I wanted to hug him but we just met (I know that has never stopped me before) but I believe God had us in the same place for a reason. He had just flown in and out of 25,000 people on base, we were on the same floor. I do believe Jodi is in a better place and I hope to do something special for her. She played basketball at Pitt Johnstown so she is a part of our Pitt family.

Steve hooked us up with dinner in the special forces dining hall. He is a chef in the Army so he made arrangements to have the coaches eat in first class. The food was wonderful (seafood night) and it was a special evening. We immediately left dinner for a meet and greet on the basketball courts. It reminded me of pickup games at Mellon Park, Winners kept the court and others scrambled to get a team and have next. The person that stands out the most was Ex-Officer Jen Bellemy, an engineer with the Army. Jen and I had met before a few years back. She played basketball at Army for Maggie Dixon and was on the team that went to the NCAA's. The night before Maggie's funeral, there was a dinner for the Army Women's Basketball team, DePaul Women's Basketball team, several Pitt people, and Maggie and Coach Dixon's family. It happened that we sat next to each other that evening and as Jen spoke, I remembered it vividly. I watched her play and Maggie would be proud because she still has game.

Needless to say, the day was long in hours but went by quickly. Teamwork is the ultimate here. You should never take for granted what our troops do for us. As always;

There's No Place Like Pitt

Game on,AB


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