Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Serving Our Country

As I sit at my laptop and listen to music I am very comfortable. The reason is because so many men and women serve our country so we can be free and safe. We have all heard that freedom is not free and this is true. These men and women that serve us full time here in our country and on foreign soil are not thanked enough. I would like to say thank you to these men and women for what they do for each one of us. This past week I was able to spend time with just a few of these service men and women as I was given the opportunity to serve the military in what is my specialty, refereeing.

I took a crew with me and we worked the Continental Soccer Championship’s (CISM) of the America’s played at Dyess Air Force base in Abilene, Texas. The event started Feb. 18 and concluded on Feb. 28. The US crew (Salazar/Strickland/Vasoli) worked the opening night game between Canada and Brazil. We worked everyday; I either refereed or worked as a fourth official during each day. The AR’s also worked every day, getting only one day off when no games were played that day. This day was designated as “Culture” day and we definitely got our share of culture, the highlight of which was eating a real Texas barbecue. It was a fantastic experience!

This was the 3rd continental championships I have been involved with. The first event I was at was in the U.S. at Ft. Eustis Virginia (2000). The second event I was at was in Victoria, British Columbia (2005).

It was a long event but I was able to see and learned many new things (apart from refereeing). One of the coolest things was at this base they host the school for our B1 Bombers. The have over 35 bombers and they take off and land all day and all night. In this photo, I am with a B1 that is just amazing. We were lucky enough to have a B-1 give us a fly by during the opening ceremony.

I get to referee the best football in our country and on occasion I get to do an international game. This event isn’t completely about the football. It is about replacing the battle field with the playing field. Yes, every team wants to win but only one took the GOLD and it wasn’t the US team. That is okay, because I can tell you that all the athletes were competitive and I enjoyed working and watching them compete. I have stood on the field with some of the best players in the world. This week I stood on the field with my heroes. The men and women that put their lives on the line so I can sit here and write this story. They give me the piece of mind, that when I go on my next trip I am able to travel safely and I know my family will be safe until I return. So, the next time you see someone in uniform just simply say thank you and shake their hand because they are the true heroes!

- Ricardo Salazar