Memorial Day Weekend is a time when Americans honor their fallen heroes. The Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders took the time to honor the heroes who are still fighting.
On Thursday, May 21, members of the Baltimore Ravens Cheer & Stunt team took a DC-8 five hours up to Thule Air Base in Northern Greenland, the United States Air Force's northern most base. They visited and performed for the troops stationed there, a rare treat for the soldiers on top of the world.
"We try to bring a touch of home to those serving overseas," said Captain Jamie Fleischhacker, Circuit Manager for the Western Hemisphere of Armed Forces Entertainment. "Bringing in bands, cheerleaders, etc. helps to achieve this mission. These tours go to help the morale of the individuals. When morale is high it is easier to focus on the mission at hand and not get distracted from serving our country."
The Ravens Cheerleaders have made overseas trips for the U.S. Armed Forces before. In 2002, they traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Dubai, Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In 2004 they traveled back to Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE, and in 2005 they went to Italy and Egypt. After a four-year hiatus, the team found itself invited to a far more unique locale.
Thule Air Base is regarded as perhaps the most remote U.S. base overseas. Nearly 600 miles above the Arctic Circle, the temperatures can go as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. And at this time of year, there are nearly 18 hours of daylight. Needless to say, the setting is far from the comforts of home for those stationed there.
That didn't mean the team wasn't thrilled for the opportunity.
"It's a great honor," said Nick, one of the male members of the stunt team, noting that visiting troops is a side of the NFL that is rarely seen.
Once the squad arrived, they were greeted by Air Force escorts who took them on a trip to one of the region's famous glaciers. The terrain was snow-covered but beautiful, if not a little foggy, but the team enjoyed the scenery nonetheless.
They then went on to participate in the Jail and Bail fundraiser on behalf of National Police Week, and had dinner at the Top of the World Club.
And course, the team performed one of their incredible routines before taking photos and giving out autographs to everyone on base, including Thule's Colonel Peppard.
"The Ravens brought something different [this year] in that they are a co-ed squad," "This appealed to the entire base population." The Ravens are the only team in the NFL with a co-ed Cheer & Stunt team.
"The most important thing is to boost their morale," eight-year cheer veteran Leslie said. As one of the longest tenured cheerleaders, she was among those who met with the troops in 2005. She said she has run into soldiers before who were overseas when they visited, who remarked that their visit was a highlight of their time there.
"They are in their own world up there. It's important to take care of them, because they take care of us."
Another of the cheerleaders who participated, Jaime A., encountered troops who met the Ravens cheerleaders before she was on the squad. They noted how great an experience it was for them, which resonated with her.
"That was when I decided to try out for the team," she said. "I've been waiting five years to do this.
"It's something I feel is our duty because of everything they do for us. It's well deserved."
So as beautiful as Baltimore was last week, the Cheerleaders made the trek into Greenland to give the troops there a boost, and to simply say 'Thanks.' Why? Because ultimately, those same troops do so much more for us.