'Rocket' Says Christmas Visit to U.S. Troops 'Humbling'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2003 Roger Clemens has pitched in front of 55,000 screaming Yankees fans. He has won deciding World Series games. What would impress him?
A pre-Christmas trip to visit American troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf impressed and humbled him, he said during an ESPN interview.
The Yankee right-hander said the memories of the World Series and parades in New York were unbelievable, "but this trip I did prior to Christmas was by far the neatest thing I've done in my professional life."
Clemens and comedian Drew Carey flew with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, to visit American troops in the region. "It is primarily to show the folks deployed in the region that America cares," Myers said. "One of the ways you do that is to take personalities like Roger Clemens over there. The crowds responded to him in a very dynamic and amazing way. He related very quickly to them."
At each stop, Clemens told the troops of his experiences on Sept. 11, 2001. "The Rocket" was to pitch that night looking for his 20th win of the season. A friend called and told him of the attacks. Clemens raced to the top of his apartment building where he watched the Twin Towers collapse. "I told them how we felt (during the attack) and how I felt when we heard the National Anthem again, as players, when we took the field," he said.
Myers said the troops could identify with the experience. "Our forces very much understand why they're a long way from home," he said. "They understand the threat that international terrorism poses to our citizens, our friends and our allies. (Clemens) was able to very quickly identify with them that way.
"I just wanted to do my part," Clemens said. "If it meant signing 20,000 autographs to do that, or shake hands and give people hugs, that's what we did."
The pitcher said the trip brought home to him what America's military does for all citizens. He said the fact that he can play a game he loves in freedom is a tribute to the men and women of the armed forces. Clemens, whose older brother Richard served in Vietnam, said that since the trip he gets upset if people are negative about the U.S. military. "(This is) because you really don't know what's going on over there," he said. "If something does happen, I know I've met some people who probably won't come home."
"Roger Clemens saying, 'This is the most moving thing I've ever been involved in,' is a huge statement on the dedication of our young men and women," Myers said. "He was impressed by it. He was impressed by their attitudes, their dedication, their discipline, their professionalism. I think it's a great tribute."