The U.S. team has been privileged to hear from numerous inspirational Americans during its run to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Almost all of them you’ve heard of. But tonight, they heard from a real American hero who you probably don’t know. Well, you may know of him and his fellow soldiers. After team dinner tonight, the players listened to Chief Warrant Officer – 5 Dan Jollota, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who was one of many men who showed outstanding bravery during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in October of 1993, a fierce fire-fight on the streets of Mogadishu with troops loyal to a Somali warlord, a battle chronicled in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down.
From a Time Magazine article in October of 1994:
“Not far from the wreckage of Wolcott's chopper, pilot Dan Jollota was struggling to hold his aircraft steady while 15 Rangers "fast-roped" to the ground by sliding down a 40-ft. line at a rate only slightly more controlled than a free fall. In the cockpit, Jollota could hear the thunk-thunk-thunk of his rotors punctuated by the deadly whoosh of rocket-propelled grenades. With two Rangers still on the ropes, the chopper took a direct hit that chewed holes in a main rotor blade. The steel-nerved pilot bit off the impulse to flee. "It was remarkable," said a crewman aboard a nearby helicopter. "They just sat there as the RPGS whistled around them." Only when his men had slid to safety did Jollota begin limping back to base.”
Jollota spoke to the team about duty, honor and selfless service, all certainly pertinent themes to representing your country in a World Cup, even if it isn’t life or death on the soccer field.