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H U S K E R    D A N

Dear Readers: As many of you know, last September I received a letter from an American soldier serving in Iraq. His letter indicated that he was a big Husker fan and was trying to get video tapes and/or DVDs of any 2004 Husker football games. He also wanted to know if he could get Husker memorabilia (T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps etc.) to hand out to the Iraqi citizens.

As soon as his first letter was posted, many of you sent requests offering your support. Myles just returned to the United States and recently, the two of us were able to spend some time talking about his experiences.


Husker Dan: First of all, thanks for taking time to visit with me today and welcome home.
Myles: Thanks. It's great to be back.
HD: When did you get back to the States?
MF: I got back March 18th. I flew out of Baghdad airport to Kuwait and from there I flew to Ireland, then to Maine and into Texas.
HD: You're stationed in Ft. Hood, right?
MF: Yes, I live in base housing with my wife and four kids. We have twins aged two and I have two step-sons aged 6 and 10. Ft. Hood is about 30 miles south of Baylor University.
HD: What was it like coming home?
MF: It was surreal. It felt weird going to sleep on U.S. soil. All of us who were in Iraq got so used to the life we had over there, that we've had to adjust again.
HD: What was it like seeing your family again after so long?
MF: My wife and I knew that being apart could do one of two things-either our marriage would fall apart or get stronger. Ours definitely got stronger. The hardest part was re-integrating back into family life.
HD: How did your kids react when they first saw you?
MF: Well, I've been on leave for the past 30 days. We have two year old twins, son Myles, Jr. and daughter, Mya. For the first three weeks that I was back, Mya wouldn't let me out of her sight!
HD: How long did you spend in Iraq?
MF: The first time I went to Iraq was in November of '02 to September of '03. The second time was March of '04 to March of this year. Ours is the only company in Ft. Hood that's been to Iraq for two complete terms.
HD: Will you have to go back?
MF: We could get sent back there, but I'm trying to get into officer's school. If that happens, I wouldn't be going back.
HD: Where would you go for officer's training?
MF: It could be several places. What I'd hope for, would be Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
HD: Wouldn't that be great! Close to KU, Kansas State, Lincoln, Columbia, not bad!
MF: (Laughs)
HD: Let's back up a bit. How old are you and where did you grow up?
MF: I'm 29. I was born in Grand Island, Nebraska and then moved to Sidney, Nebraska. I also lived in Elkhorn for a while then to Beaver Lake, south of Plattsmouth.
HD: Where did you attend high school?
MF: Conestoga Junior/Senior High
HD: Did you play football?
MF: Yes. I was an All State linebacker.
HD: How big were you then?
MF: I was 6'1" and weighed about 150 pounds. I wasn't very big, but I could hit pretty hard.
HD: Did you have hopes of playing in college?
MF: Yes. My high school coach at that time, didn't do too much to promote me so I sent out my own video tapes. I wanted to walk on at Wayne State, but my grades weren't good enough.
HD: What was your major?
MF: Pre-med. I made the mistake of taking the hardest courses my first semester. I just couldn't keep up. I also partied way too much! Originally, I wanted to go to UNL, but couldn't afford it. I was also in the Nebraska National Guard my first year at Wayne.
HD: How long did you attend Wayne?
MF: Just the one year.
HD: Do you have any plans to go back to school?
MF: I'm in my senior year of an on-line college program from Troy State and am majoring in Resource Management with a minor in Computer Network Engineering. My study habits have definitely changed! (Laughs.)
HD: What do you want to do with your education?
MF: Like I said, I want to go to officer's school, but I'd like to start a part time career in web page design, video editing and would like to transfer people's VHS tapes onto DVD.
HD: Is your wife in the military?
MF: Not now. She's a nursing student and plans to be a registered nurse.
HD: Is she from Nebraska?
MF: No, she's from Buffalo, New York. We met in Georgia at Ft. Stewart. At the time, she was ranked higher than me.
HD: That must have been interesting! So what does she think of your Big Red Addiction?
MF: She's coping with it! She hates Saturdays because that's the day I'd watch college football all day. She just leaves the room when I watch the Huskers on TV!
HD: How did you become a Husker fan?
MF: I can't imagine any kid growing up in Nebraska not being a Husker fan! The first memories of the Huskers was during the '82 and '83 seasons, back when they had Turner Gill, Irving Fryar and Mike Rozier. My mother was a single mom and had to raise me, my brother and my two sisters by herself. We didn't have money for any frills like football tickets. My mother was a huge Husker fan. She would plan things around Husker games. Back then, we didn't have cable, so when the Huskers weren't on network TV, she put all of us in the car and she'd drive over to K-Mart where they'd have the game on all the TVs!

I think my greatest memory of the Huskers was the Fiesta Bowl with Florida after the '95 season. I still remind Gator fans of their awesome display of laying on the turf! (Laughs). I do remember our loss to Miami due to the two-point conversion. It really doesn't hurt though, it just showed the character of Coach Osborne. But I still can't get over our losses to the Seminoles.
My wife thinks I'm nuts, but I have converted one of the rooms in our house to a Husker room. I've lined the walls with all the Sports Illustrated magazines from the championship years and have the sports sections from the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World Herald framed and hanging on the walls. It's the perfect office!
HD: Let's go back to Iraq for a moment. What can you tell us about how you got started handing out Husker memorabilia to Iraqi people?
MF: It started when I gave a Husker sticker to a kid. The next day, I gave my favorite Husker hat to a teenage boy. If it made them happy, I was willing to do it. The Iraqi kids would shout "GI! GI!" whenever they saw us coming.
And then later, my wife sent more stickers and one day I got a huge box filled with Husker T-shirts, sweatshirts and some non-Husker clothing. That was the box I received from Gary in Kansas. Usually, the clothing that we gave the kids was better than anything they had.
HD: Did you ever get pictures of the kids you gave clothing to?
MF: Most of those pictures were confiscated for security purposes. My stuff isn't all back yet from Iraq. It comes by boat to the U.S.
One guy from Omaha sent Husker Frisbees. The kids went crazy that day! The only problem we had, was when the children would fight over things we gave them.
HD: What else did you receive from Husker fans?
MF: I got lots of email and some hand written mail. I also got a sack of food from a couple in California-they are both Husker grads. Also, Gary, the guy from Kansas who sent a big box to me, wants to take me and my wife to a Husker game this fall. People have been really great.

Each time you'd post something about me in your Husker Dan column, I'd get a bunch of email messages. That was really great. At first I answered every email I got. I figured that if they took the time to write me, I should take time to write them. But after awhile, I couldn't keep up. I ended up sending out more of a cookie cutter letter to the people, thanking them for writing. I hope they understand.

I want to say a major thank you to all those who took time to write. I can never thank them enough for their response and support. I was also amazed at the dedication of Husker fans that were still positive about the program, even though we had a 5-6 record. What also was surprising was the diversity. I heard from people all over the country, from Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, California and even Canada. And when we'd get a personalized package, it was like Christmas! Hand written mail was an escape from reality-very uplifting.

Also, Chris Anderson from the UNL Athletic Department sent me a 2004 Husker Media Guide, a poster and a DVD of the Missouri game. It's great getting videos of Husker games because we didn't get to see them on TV very much.

HD: How long does it take for mail to reach you?
MF: A letter would take about 2 weeks and packages about 2-6 weeks.
HD: What time would Husker games be shown in Iraq?
MF: There is a 9 hour time difference, so we'd get Husker night games in the middle of the night.
HD: When would you get to use a computer to check your email?
MF: I would get up about 3 or 4 in the morning and then I would usually just stay up. We got our Internet service out of Baghdad and sometimes terrorists would sabotage the system or the owners would shut it down.
HD: Why would the owners shut it down?
MF: They were being pressured by the Iraqis because they thought by providing the Internet, they were aiding the Americans. Also, barbers who would give haircuts to GIs were sometimes gunned down because they were helping the Americans.
HD: What was it like sleeping in a battle zone?
MF: We'd get anywhere from 4 to 8 hours of sleep a night. We were surrounded by 20' high brick walls and our sleeping depended on if any mortar shells would come in the middle of the night, or how often helicopters would fly over head or if any roadside bombs went off.
HD: What was the summer heat like?
MF: Iraq has about 2-21/2 months of unbearable heat with highs about 120 degrees. We had to wear full body armor all day in the heat. When we went out on patrol, we had to have the windows rolled up in our vehicles. We put a thermometer in one of them one time and it broke! It got between 130 and 150 degrees inside the vehicles.
HD: How much did it cool off at night?
MF: About 95 to 100! (Laughs)
HD: You must have had to drink a lot of water.
MF: We did, but in Iraq, there was bottled water everywhere we would go. There are more military heat related problems in Texas than in Iraq, because there isn't as much the emphasis on providing water in Texas.
HD: Regarding the war in Iraq, do you think there is any light at the end of the tunnel?
MF: Most definitely! Iraq has had its first election. They've elected a president, prime minister and set up their own National Guard. Right now, there are more Iraqi troops than American troops over there. There will always be setbacks-roadside bombs, but there are fewer large scale operations directed against American soldiers. Not all the Iraqis hate Americans. But the Iraqi people are going to hate us when we move out, because of all of the work we've been doing for them. My greatest fear when I came home from Iraq last month was that this would be a replay of Viet Nam-that there would be protests etc. None of that has happened.
HD: Were you fighting with any coalition forces or were they not on the front lines?
MF: No, we didn't have any with us. And there is no front line. Each city is its own front line. Mosul, north of Baghdad is a very bad place.
HD: We posted the two pictures in my column that showed you holding a Military police flag and another standing by an American flag. Where were those taken?
MF: They were taken on top of one of the small palaces that house American soldiers. There are many Husker flags flying in Baghdad. Before I left in March, I left my own Husker flag on a flag pole in Baghdad. It took 3 people standing on top of a truck to put it in place. We also cut off the strings so it can never be removed!
HD: Okay, before we close, can you give us your prediction for the 2005 Husker football season?
MF: If Zac Taylor stays healthy and continues to learn the system, I think we will win 7 games and go to a bowl game. The Huskers should win the Big 12 North. K-State will be the team to challenge. If you look at the other quarterbacks in the division, Brad Smith at Missouri is down and out, Joe Klatt is gone from Colorado. Iowa State had a Cinderella season last year but will have a losing record this year. The Huskers lost Barrett Ruud but have enough talent coming back in the fall to be in good shape. I was behind Joe Dailey 100% last year, but he doesn't measure up with Taylor.
HD: And on that note, we thank you for taking time to visit with me. I know I can speak for all Husker fans and wish you nothing but the best for you and your family.

(Shortly after this interview was completed, I received an email from Myles saying that he just got news that he is being transferred to Belgium in August and will be stationed there for two years. He added, "Unfortunately that means at least two more years without being in the stadium for a Husker game.")


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