Hi fans, this is Lindsay again. Our trip to Okinawa, Iwakuni, Singapore and Diego Garcia was sensational. After traveling for so long and for so many days, we are finally back in the States catching up on our normal sleep schedule and fighting jet lag!
Due to Internet connection issues and a very tight agenda, I was unable to catch everyone up on our day-to-day activities during the last leg of our tour. So I will do a small summary of the last two locations for you all and share the beautiful photos that we were able to take.
After we left Iwakuni base near Hiroshima, we made our way over to Singapore (with much difficulty, if I might add, due to a cancelled flight) and spent two days waiting for our C-17 cargo plane to become travel-ready for our departure to Diego Garcia. Well, our trip almost came to an end in Singapore. Although it was nice to have a day off and catch up on rest and shopping, we received a phone call telling us that we were most likely not going to be able to head to Diego Garcia due to the C-17 plane having mechanical issues.
Flights to Diego Garcia are on a very strict schedule and some of the military personnel waiting for a flight out of the island had been waiting for over 14 days! I have to say, we were all a bit worried as we were told, "You guys might end up stuck on the island for a while if the plane can't get you back." We were thinking to ourselves, "We're all fired from our jobs back home. It's over." However, the thought of being stranded on a gorgeous island in the Indian Ocean for a few days didn't seem so bad (Ha.Ha!)
Anyhow, after waiting for the phone call that would give us the "green light" to head to Diego, our luck finally changed. I think we were biting our fingernails the entire time in hope that we could go. I can't convey the disappointment we would have felt if we weren't able to visit the island and the military there. We had heard that they were all waiting for us to arrive and were extremely excited to meet us as we were pumped to meet them.
We headed on over to a base in Singapore and boarded the GIGANTIC C-17 cargo plane. Of course, I always meet interesting people on my flights as I have shared in my previous blogs, and I had the opportunity to meet six or seven gentleman who were divers in the Navy and were headed to the island for work. These guys were great! We shared a lot of laughs on the plane and it was wonderful to meet them and get to know them on our way to Diego Garcia.
Stacy and I also had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit on the C-17 during the flight. It was so neat to fly through the clouds over the Indian Ocean. We shared side-splitting stories and laughed hysterically with the pilots for about an hour-and-a-half before landing on the island. We were ecstatic upon arrival. Ariana and Vanessa had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit and watch our landing while the rest of us sat in anticipation over the utopia we were about to witness.
After landing and leaving the Immigration Office, it was nightfall so we couldn't see much, but you could definitely smell the sea nearby. My heart was racing! I had never seen clear blue water before. Here in Texas, Galveston, unfortunately, does not offer this kind of beauty, and I couldn't wait until the morning to see the ocean. Arriving to our hotel rooms on base, there were hardly any lights around. There is no light pollution on the island in the night hours. Everything is completely natural. As the girls and I were unloading our luggage from the van, I glanced up at the night sky. I told the girls, "Look up!" I can't begin to describe to you all the beauty of the stars. It was only us, the island, the sea, and the sky.
We were sad to find out that we only had about 24 hours to spend on Diego Garcia. The next day was completely full of activities followed by a final performance that evening. We had Navy sailors show us the island, taking us to places like Turtle Cove, where we had the opportunity to see beautiful sea turtles and sting rays in crystal clear turquoise water. We were also taken down a path through a small patch of jungle to Cannon Point, where the guys showed us two large cannons that had been on the island since the early 1940's.
While there, we held small hermit crabs found in the sand and observed a small pet cemetery of military dogs nearby. We paid a visit to The Brit Club's Royal Marine Commandos, where they performed an incredible beach assualt as well a wonderful demonstration with their adorable drug dogs. In addition, we took an informative and extremely interesting tour of the U.S.S. Florida submarine which was docked on the island. The submarine was such a treat and a very powerful vessel filled with levels and levels of highly confidential material and never ending halls and passageways. Later on that evening before our show, we dined with the officers on a terrace that overlooked the beach and the warm setting sun. Before dinner, we walked on the beach and took pictures together as the sun went down. We wanted to preserve every moment on Diego Garcia via photographs. Life on the island is slow, exquisite and beautiful.
Our performance turned out to be amazing. There were easily 300 people present in the room shouting for us. The energy was infectious and wonderful. We had an absolute blast! Diego Garcians really know how to party! Our autograph session was especially rewarding as we were able to personally meet everyone who attended. Everyone was very appreciative of our visit and we couldn't have been more delighted to be there.
Immediately following our show, we signed autographs and said our goodbyes. We left the island that evening (around midnight) with sad hearts. Leaving everyone so soon was very difficult. We will never forget that last day on Diego Garcia. The island is truly a wonder and we were so honored, blessed and privileged to have been given the opportunity to visit there. There are no families allowed, no wives, husbands, girlfriends, children or friends. Outsiders are strictly prohibited. Only military personnel is allowed access to the island with the exception of many Phillippino contract workers whom, if I might add, were the sweetest individuals on the planet. We were definitely a treat as we heard there had been no cheerleaders on the island since 2003.
We made our way back to Singapore for one last night and from there we headed home, stopping at Tokyo/Narita Airport and boarding our 11-hour flight back to Houston. I must say, this entire trip was an eye-opener for all of us. We were able to get a taste of what these men and women go through without contact with their families and friends, without the taste of home for days, months and years at a time. The people that we have met on this trip are in our hearts forever, and I hope that some day we will run into them again on another journey to visit the military.
On behalf of myself, the Houston Texans Cheerleading Squad, and Armed Forces Entertainment, thank you for following us on our military tour of Asia! I would also like to give a very big thank you to Sandy Charboneau for accompanying us on our journey and sacrificing her time (and patience) and fighting for us to have the best experience possible. You are always a joy to travel with and the HTC's love you!
I hope that my blogs have been most informative to you all and that we were able to provide a deeper appreciation for those serving our country and countries around the world. May all of our troops be blessed and return home safe and sound. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers and respect the sacrifices that they all have made to keep our country safe.
Cheers to you!
See you in the 2010-2011 Houston Texans football season,