CAM RHAN INTERNATIONAL PORT, Vietnam -- “Once the port call was announced, the Cam Rahn International Port guards reached out to us to set up a game,” said Lieutenant Wade Hammond, Battalion Landing Team and Landing Force Chaplain aboard USS San Diego (LPD 22). “They expressed the fun experiences both teams [U.S. and Vietnamese] had in the past and wished to play against Marines and Sailors again.
“Before the soccer match even started, we talked the best we could with the Vietnamese players,” said Hammond. “It was broken English, but we talked about USS Frank Cable and the other ships that ported in the past, how fun it was to play against each other, and how excited they are to play us.”
The participants held practice sessions August 7 and 8, and played two matches August 9 and 10. On the first day both teams were playing hard and scoring goals, one after another. The second day, determination grew even greater with each passing second.
“On day one the Vietnamese out-played us, 7 to 5, and on day two we had another great game; Vietnam almost out-played us again, but we scored at the last minute when it was tied 6 to 6. We won 7 to 6 with a final goal with only 5 minutes to spare,” Hammond said.
Regardless of who won or who lost, there were smiles, laughs and high-fives all around as the players from both teams congratulated each other after the final whistle blew on the last game.
“The competition was very friendly very and sportsman like,” Hammond said. “When they scored, we cheered, when we scored, they cheered, and yet we both played very hard and both wanted to win. It was a respectful competition. People playing people, just having fun and bringing two nations together. It was truly the opportunity of a lifetime. I will remember this for a long, long time.”
Soccer is a universal language known around the world. This language brought together both Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and American Amphibious Ready Group with guards from the Cam Ranh International Port. Although, both teams speak different languages, it did not stop them from bonding and sharing stories of playing the sport both teams love.
“When I think of playing soccer with our brothers in Vietnam, I think of the pinnacle of integration. At one point, we have the full integration of the San Diego team with Navy, Marines, officer and enlisted, having a great time. It was a beautiful picture to see, and then on a larger scale of integration, we had Sailors and Marines playing against the Cam Rahn International Port guards from Vietnam, which is incredible” said Hammond.
A MEU can be great opportunity to not only serve the country, but explore different cultures, languages and new experiences. The Marines and Sailors of the 15th MEU and America ARG were able to take advantage of something that was so much more than just a soccer match – it was a learning experience they may never forget.