Salute to the Troops: And One-Eyed Jacks …
Thought I’d share this with you folks. I’m in Las Vegas as a part of a group of bloggers invited to blog about a great program called Salute to the Troops where 70 wounded warriors and their guests are flown to Vegas, all expenses paid, put up at one of the plushest properties there (the Palazzo) and treated to 3 days and nights of VIP treatment. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 12. It has been a blast so far.
The Palazzo had a Blackjack tournament yesterday for those of our group that signed up. It ended up being a 3 table affair with some very keen competition. The grand prize wasn’t chips, but instead round trip airfare for 2 from Southwest Airlines and free accommodations at the Palazzo for the winner and his guest to do this all over again.
The players battled it out over the three tables and you could hear the cheers and groans as lady luck had her way with all. But it all came down to the championship table and the final 15 hands. Here’s how the championship table looked as they began.
If you look to the far right, the guy counting his chips and plotting his strategy is Marine Corps Sgt. Ken Fischer. Sgt. Fischer built a nice lead early and then continued to increase it throughout the 15 hands with some aggressive betting. But it was tight at the end, and all the players went for it on the final hand with the dealer cooperating and busting (to cheers all around). Sgt. Fischer prevailed with over $10,000 in total chips.
While they were playing I got to talk with some of the other dealers and managers who were there and supported the tournament. Almost all were veterans. So while they players played, we swapped stories about C-Rats, P-38s and the usual stuff military folks like to reminisce about.
Most impressive, at least to me though, was how into the “Support the Troops” program they were. This wasn’t just some extra duty to them, but something they felt privileged to be a part of. I spoke with one of the dealers who’d served in the National Guard with the 42nd Division in NY before moving to Las Vegas. As we spoke and laughed about our most memorable C-Ration meals of the past, she pulled out her dog tags and held up, you guessed it, a P-38. Loved it.
That evening we had a great dinner at Lagasse Stadium (the ultimate man cave). It’s a sports book, with fabulous food (yup, that Lagasse as in Emeril) and more flat screen TVs than Korea outputs in a year. Shrimp the size of your fist (yeah, your fist. I swear they were bordering on small lobster size.), roast beef – like I said, a guys place.
We had dinner on a patio which was awesome. It was 97 degrees out, but somehow the hotel kept it cool and pleasant. Treasure Island is across the street and they have a live pirate show every hour. So we’d all be enjoying our feast and fellowship and suddenly we’d hear the pirates attacking the fort across the street. Only in Vegas.
Anyway, here’s Sgt. Fischer as he received his prize for the Blackjack win:
There are other bloggers and some special guests here as well. So I’ll give you a little pop quiz. Take a look at the next picture, take a look at the glass in his hand and tell me who it is:
Yes that’s Stephen Green, aka “Vodka Pundit”, originator of drunk blogging and his incredible wife, Melissa. Green is also covering the event for PJ Media.
And finally, someone who I’ve always wanted to meet but figured I’d never have the opportunity. I watched and cheered him on for years. Hint: I’m from Atlanta and this has to do with baseball. Pay no attention to the ugly guy on the left (that’d be me), tell me who the guy on the right is:
Yes friends, that’s future Hall of Fame pitcher, Greg “Mad Dog” Maddux. He quietly took a night to come out and hang with everyone one and salute the troops. It was funny, most of us didn’t even know he was with the group until he was announced and then a line literally formed to meet him. Gracious and funny, he took pictures with everyone. Thanks, Greg.
And again thanks to everyone who is making this amazing week possible. I asked one soldier, while we were walking to dinner, what he thought of all this. He sort of smiled and said, “you know, we’ve been treated to some great things while I’ve been at BAMC, but this just blows everything away”.
There ya go …