After a week in the Middle East, Gary Kubiak is heading home.
The Texans head coach spent the past week in Kuwait and Iraq as part of a NFL-USO Coaches tour to visit American troops. Today he's flying out of Kuwait and will return to Houston.
"I've said it a lot already but I'll say it again: it's been amazing," Kubiak said by phone yesterday. "I feel so fortunate to have taken part in this experience."
Kubiak, along with Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and former NFL head coaches Jim Mora and Jim Mora, Jr., celebrated Independence Day in Basra, Iraq.
"We visited three different bases, and had a barbecue lunch at one," Kubiak said of his Fourth of July.
The group began it's journey in Kuwait on Thursday, hop-scotching to Baghdad, Tikrit and Basra over the next four days, before a final stop back in Kuwait. Along the way, Kubiak said, he was able to meet countless men and women serving in the Armed Forces, many of whom he'll never forget.
"You'll definitely remember those faces, that's for sure," Kubiak said. "I told them that we hope to see some of them again at some of our practices and games in the future."
In addition to mingling with the troops on the tour, Kubiak and his fellow coaches spent the night of July 3 in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. They also shot a variety of guns, donned full body armor, traveled in Blackhawk helicopters and C-130's, and participated in countless other activities and experiences unique to the military personnel serving in the region.
On our Nation's birthday, Kubiak was struck by the resolve of those he was visiting.
"They just go about their day like it's business as usual," Kubiak said. "Even though it's the Fourth, they have a job to do."
Kubiak also enjoyed spending time with Whisenhunt and the Moras, and said their friendship was strengthened.
"I was friends with all of them before the trip, but it's been really cool, getting to know those guys and have such great conversations with them," he said. "It's made us closer friends."
Still, the overriding reaction from the Texans head coach was a respect and admiration for the day-to-day duties of our nation's armed servicemen and women. On certain days, the visiting coaches began their day at four in the morning and wouldn't go to sleep until 11 at night. Kubiak's long flight home will likely help clarify what was at times, a dizzying trip.
"I've had so many memorable conversations, and it's going to be one of those things that I'll reflect on when we're flying back," he said, when asked about what conversation he'll remember most. "To pick just one right now is impossible."