I can't remember the last time I learned so much in one 24-hour stretch.
From Iraqi history to geography to public policy. We covered a lot of territory by air and land.
I also learned -- what I had suspected for many years -- that our men and women in uniform are the most courageous and dedicated individuals I could and will ever meet.
We spent most of the day at Victory Base Complex in central Baghdad. This massive base houses several thousand troops and is the site of many of Saddam Hussein's opulent palaces.
Visiting the base hospital with Robin Williams, Lewis Black, Kix Brooks, Bob Dipiero and Lance provided us the opportunity to see how the wounded are cared for in this combat setting. It was wonderful to hear doctors and nurses talk about how relatively few Americans have been injured recently. The hospital was almost empty which was a welcome site.
A True Survivor Story
The highlight of the day was meeting General Art Bartell who had specifically asked to visit with Lance. We weren't sure why he wanted to meet but following a late lunch, we met with him in one of the Iraqi palaces located on the base.
General Bartell told us his personal cancer story, having been diagnosed with a rare cancer several years ago. He talked about the support he received from LIVESTRONG and what Lance's book meant to him during his treatment.
During the conversation General Bartell, who essentially serves as the COO of the base, mentioned that he is an active supporter of the Foundation's mission and thanked us for our service to those with cancer.
Being thanked for our work by a man who is a leader in the fight for freedom around the world seemed a bit strange -- but it showed us once again the power of connecting people in need and the services we provide to families battling cancer.
Following a quick nap in our bunk beds, Lance and I headed out for a 45-minute run with a group of 10 soldiers from Idaho, New York, and California. Aaron Miner from Idaho created the route and set the pace. We toured the base and saw much of what Saddam had built during his reign. We went to the wire (the boundary of the base) and ran around a man-made lake stocked with enormous fish by the former Iraqi regime.
The day ended with an outdoor USO show featuring all the talent traveling with us. I stood, surrounded by hundreds of troops, with chills up and down my body as the performers took to the state to perform comedy and music. The hundreds of audience members serve our nation every day and seeing them have an opportunity to forget about their daily duties and laugh and have fun was a moving experience.
I am honored to see first-hand that our freedom is in the hands of an extremely talented, bright, passionate force.
We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
Follow Doug Ulman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/livestrongceo