University of Miami 'Adopts' Sailors in Iraq

By Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey McCoy, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2007 - The University of Miami Hurricanes have reached out to share a little bit of home with the men and women of the Navy Provisional Detainee Battalion, "The Sand Pirates," currently serving at Camp Bucca, Iraq.

The connection between the Navy unit and the university is through the Battalion's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Kathryn A. Donovan, who once worked for University of Miami President Donna Shalala. Shalala sent almost 100 shirts and baseball caps to the battalion just in time for this year's college football bowl games.

"This very generous way of thanking the soldiers, sailors and airmen who are away from their families at the holidays and provided a huge morale boost. Plus, there are just a lot of Hurricane fans in the desert," said Donovan.

Among the recipients of a green-and-orange "U" cap was Army Spc. Estuardo Morales, of Tampa, Fla., who said he was overwhelmed to receive an official Miami Hurricanes cap. "The hat reminds me of home, because everybody in my family loves the Hurricanes," he said. "I leave my new hat on top of my 'battle rattle' in the office to show my school pride because I work with all Gamecocks fans, and they don't have any hats."

Morales is attached to the 251st Rear Area Operations Center, a National Guard unit from South Carolina. "Battle rattle" is a slang term soldiers use to refer to their body armor and helmet.

Airman Morris Bell created a motivational sign with the slogan, "Taking a Time Out for The U, Camp Bucca, Iraq."

"I'm from Houston, so I don't know much about Miami, but I'll cheer for anyone that sends free hats and shirts," he said. "I know that Devon Hester went to Miami and he's worth cheering for."

A third "Canes" fan, Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Sharrard, hails from Hawaii, but his grandmother lived in Miami and he has been a Hurricane and Dolphins fan since childhood. "This really improved the battalion's morale and is truly appreciated," he said. "The fact that the hats and T-shirts arrived during the holidays makes them even more special."

Seaman Abel Rivera added, "This helps us feel supported from people back home and lifts our spirit in this environment. It keeps us motivated to keep going."

"Thanks for your thoughts and prayers," said Petty Officer 1st Class Isiah Dumas. "Maybe we'll see 'the U' in a BCS Bowl Game next year." said

The University of Miami effort is just one of countless others being put forth by the American public, grassroots organizations and corporations to show support for U.S. servicemembers.

The Defense Department's "America Supports You" program highlights many of those efforts. More information is available on the America Supports You Web site.

(Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey McCoy is assigned to 16th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs.)