So many moments stand out for Eagles head coach Andy Reid in this summer trip to remember that it is difficult to organize all the thoughts right now: The sheer volume of the military operations in Germany and Afghanistan, the bravery and patriotism of the young men and the young women that he has met, the proximity to danger on an every-day basis and, certainly not least of all, the tremendous camaraderie he has seen from the troops during the NFL-USO Coaches Tour Reid took with Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.
This is a game-changing trip, Reid admits, and at a time when most coaches in the league are off in a warm climate working on their golf games and dipping their toes into an ocean, he is paying his respects to the men and women who are protecting our country.
"It has been incredible and I wish every person in our country could make this trip and see how such a huge operation works in sync and how everyone helps everyone out," he said. "It is a true team effort. The military is so organized and the troops are so courageous. We talk about 'putting it all on the line' in the NFL, but these young people are truly doing that. They are literally willing to sacrifice their lives for our country.
"We did a visit with the wounded soldiers and they couldn't wait to get healed and get back out there and protect our country. That is moving. Every citizen in our country should witness this and get a sense of what really happens here."
Reid is a devotee of strategy and planning and the idea of aligning resources to battle the enemy. A head coach prepares all week to meet an opponent on the football field and we too often use war parlance to describe what happens in a football game. But in the end, of course, the games are just games.
The three NFL coaches for the last week have experienced the real war. Childress' son, Andrew, is in the military stationed in Afghanistan, and a surprise visit for father and son was arranged during the coaches' time there. All of these kids, so young and so strong and so braved, have made a very positive impression on Reid.
"The patriotism here is phenomenal. You see American flags everywhere and there is an amazing feeling of teamwork," said Reid. "It has been an incredible deal. All of these kids are away from their moms and dads, away from their loved ones to serve our country.
"I think the thing that strikes me the most is that when you are living where we live, in Philadelphia and in the comfort of our country, we only hear about the war effort and we keep up on current events and so forth. When you see it up close, you realize the magnitude of the operation. You get here and it is incredible. Every minute, every day, you just go 'Wow.' The soldiers are always on alert, always ready for action. And you see how they are prepared for every situation and there are no surprises. When anything happens, a whole chain of events occurs and everyone is extremely prepared to spring into action."
Reid has met his share of Eagles fans and has taken time to talk to the soldiers about the football side of things. There is curiosity, of course, from that end. Men who have been stationed overseas for years are thrilled to meet the NFL's finest and the coaches take time to give back to the soldiers. But Reid has been just as open-minded about learning the life of the military. It is a weaving, complex tangle of orders and directions that are to be followed to exact procedure.
You don't step out of line. You help the solider next to you. You step up without being asked.
You get the job done.
"Everything is accounted for," said Reid. "It has been quite an experience, to see all of this. The level of appreciation and thanks, I just can't say 'thank you' enough to the entire operation, not just here but everywhere around the world. They are here protecting what we have home. That's the deal, man. They are sacrificing their lives to make our lives better. They truly are heroes."