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  October 14, 2000



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Hard to believe

Terrorist bombing of destroyer hits home with the Hitman



By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun

"I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY" --- The Beatles

- - -

I was walking into the gym when I saw the news on a little TV. Terrorists had blown a hole 30-ft. high and 40-ft. wide into the side of the USS Cole, one of the most advanced warships in the American fleet.

Seventeen sailors were dead and 33 more injured. It was the highest death toll for a terrorist attack on the American military since the bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996. That attack claimed the lives of 17 Air Force servicemen.

Upon seeing the news, I cringed. Immediately, I thought back to April, 1997 when I had the privilege to spend a day-and-a-half with the 7th Calvary Regiment -- the GarryOwen Tank Division -- in Kuwait.

I was the World Champion at the time and I found myself in Kuwait, on a WWF tour, along with my brother, Owen.

During that time, my wrestling character was an American bashing rogue. I'd made what I thought were some valid points in my wrestling interviews, commenting about racial tension in America, gun control and health care reform. I thought maybe some kid watching wrestling -- seeing my interviews -- might get interested enough to grow up and do something about these issues.

Who knows?

Anyway, despite the fact it was all part of a wrestling angle, I was getting so much heat from fans that sometimes police had to escort me out of the arenas. In Mississippi, it was so bad they wanted to lynch me.

But next thing you know, I found myself face to face with American soldiers toting big guns -- soldiers who were keeping up with the WWF on armed forces TV no less.

They offered to take me and Owen for a helicopter ride and we all joked about how they could write a good ending to the storyline by leaving the anti-American wrestlers somewhere in the middle of the desert.

We were in truly dismal territory. All around us were burned-out buildings and blown-up vehicles from where Americans had put their lives on the line to protect the freedom of the Kuwait people.

Even with the remnants of war as a backdrop, the soldiers showed us hearty hospitality.

Chaplain Ken Sorensen told me the soldiers love to watch wrestling and many of them said they couldn't believe we'd come all the way out there to visit them. They even let Owen and I see what it feels like to ride in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

I couldn't believe how fast and powerful it was. They enthusiastically described how you could shoot another vehicle and the bullets would go in one side and out the other -- or even shoot through missiles.

We visited remote outposts where they stood on sentry duty. What impressed me most about these soldiers was their guts and their fear.

They had the guts to take on anyone and they lived with the fear of knowing they might have to do just that at any second, especially being a mere mile from the Iraqi border. The general told us our visit was great for moral -- ours as well as theirs. We enjoyed eating in the mess hall and working out with them in their gym.

The men of the 7th Calvary gave me a GarryOwen pin, named in honor of the regiments unofficial marching song, an Irish hymn, that was adopted by General Custer during the Civil War.

"Our hearts so stout have got no fame, for soon it's known from whence we came. Wherever we go they fear the name, of GarryOwen in glory."

From that day on, I wore the GarryOwen pin on my ring jacket.

It makes me so sad to think of those American soldiers, so far away in Yemen, missing their families, always standing guard -- yet being blown away like that.

With all the good-natured heckling we've hurled at the Americans lately, I know that in our hearts all Canadians feel secure knowing that such a powerful nation is just south of the border.

My mother is American. My uncle was a three-star general in the U.S. Army and my family's U.S. military lineage can be traced all the way back to Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest.

I've spent most of the last 14 years in the States and have seen all 50 of them. I've known Americans from all walks of life.

I am but one Canadian voice, but I would like to express my grief and sympathies to the Americans for their loss.

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