Aug. 17, 2009
University of Dayton basketball coach Brian Gregory is one of eight college basketball coaches who have been chosen to travel to the Persian Gulf and visit troops as part of the sixth installment of "Operation Hardwood," a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.
This is the second straight summer Gregory is participating in the event.
"I've had some people learn I was going back this year, and their reaction is `You're doing this again?'" Gregory said. "I just tell them `How can I not?' These men and women sacrifice so much to serve our country. It's a great honor for me to be given the opportunity to show our support for them. I'm very, very grateful to be a part of it again."
The tour features a week-long basketball tournament and championship game with some of the best military players stationed overseas. Joining Gregory on the tour are Jim Crews (head coach at Army), Fran Fraschilla (ESPN Basketball Analyst and former St. John's head coach), Mike Gillian (head coach at Longwood), Mark Gottfried (former Alabama head coach), Steve Lavin (ESPN Basketball Analyst and former UCLA head coach), Jeff Nix (former New York Knicks Assistant GM) and Dennis Wolff (former Boston University head coach). Fraschilla was also part of last year's Operation Hardwood.
"Operation Hardwood VI" will kick off in Washington, DC, where the group will meet with wounded service members receiving care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. Following their visit to the District, the coaches and sports personalities will journey overseas to spend time with troops, tour military vessels, pose for pictures and sign autographs.
"There is no doubt in my mind that these people are the heroes of today. They put themselves in harm's way every day "Gregory said. "For eight days, we hope to give them a little fun and bring a little bit of home back to them," It's a great honor to be able to do that."
Touring with the USO since 2005, the Operation Hardwood series has deployed more than 40 NCAA basketball coaches and sports personalities overseas, delivering a touch of home to more than 7,000 service members - 1,000 of whom have played for these elite college coaches. Committed to bringing athletic figures and sports-related events to America's armed forces, last year the tour lifted the spirits of more than 1,500 troops in Kuwait and Iraq alone.
Among the coaches and basketball figures who have participated in previous tours are Jay Bilas, Mike Brey, Bobby Cremins, Tom Izzo, Bobby Lutz, the late Skip Prosser, Tubby Smith and Gary Williams.
Celebrities selflessly lend their time to the USO, visiting and entertaining service members stationed around the world. Whether signing autographs, leading clinics, performing concerts, or talking to military schoolchildren, they help troops and their families feel a little closer to home. Celebrity volunteers who recently participated in USO tours include Don Shula, Warrick Dunn, Bradley Cooper, LeeAnn Tweeden and Stephen Colbert.
The USO (United Service Organizations) provides morale, welfare and recreational services to U.S. military personnel and their families. The USO is a nonprofit, charitable organization, relying on the generosity of the American people to support its programs and services. To learn more about the USO or to find out how to support the troops, visit www.uso.org.