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Postcard from Hawaii: Military presence is undeniable

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Hawaii is home to more than 32,000 active duty military and its presence in the Aloha State is undeniable. As is the presence of the service members at the Pro Bowl practices this week.

Captain Luis Diaz has brought some troops from Schofield Barracks -- Hawaii's largest Army post in the state, standing at over 18,000 acres -- to the Pro Bowl practices this week as a reward and to keep up morale for some of the troops who will soon be deployed. The men are recognized as each company's best soldiers and are reaping the benefits of their hard work by watching their favorite NFL players do what they do best.

The handful of soldiers, clothed in camouflaged fatigues, stood in the bleachers watching the NFL stars practice, cheering the great plays and marveling at the athleticism of the players.

The soldiers come from places far and wide, such as Illinois, Arizona, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas. And it figures that their taste in players is also diverse. Devin Hester, Adrian Peterson, Torry Holt, Terrell Owens and Tony Romo are a few of the players the men are clamoring to meet.

Private First Class Kenneth Chambers wants to see Brian Westbrook. The Texas-born and New York-bred soldier isn't exactly an Eagles fan. Rather, he was one of the many fantasy football players who were victimized by Westbrook's play of fantasy football infamy.

Westbrook had broken free on a 25-yard run in the closing minutes of the Eagles' 10-6 win at Dallas in Week 15. But instead of racing into the end zone, Westbrook laid down at the 1-yard line. The intent was to keep the ball away from the Cowboys and secure the win. But for many fantasy footballers, like Chambers, Westbrook's heads up play cost him precious fantasy football points and possibly the season. And because of that, he wanted to meet Westbrook and maybe even get a refund for his lost season.

"He owes me that," Chambers said with a laugh. "He broke my season and he broke my heart. I wanted to cry."

Don't worry PFC Chambers, Westbrook feels your pain. And take solace that you are not alone. Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald was also one of those who lost out because of Westbrook's fantasy sin. Something Fitzgerald brought to Westbrook's attention before practice on Wednesday.

"I'm definitely sorry, but it's just one of those deals," Westbrook said. "It is always in good fun. Everybody has a different opinion on it. If it helped them win, they love it. But otherwise I get guys asking me, 'Why did you have to go and ruin my season?'

"It definitely will be one of those plays that people remember."

Chambers, along with the other soldiers, gathered autographs from the players as they left practice. A number of the men had notepads, footballs and jerseys, with Romo and Owens being the most popular. The two Cowboys were among the players most generous with their time.

Most players did sign autographs, although a few soldiers were disappointed that Peyton Manning was late for his bus and wasn't able to sign anything (in fairness, Manning was signing yesterday).

Chambers did finally get a chance to meet Westbrook. And while Chambers might not have gotten the refund he was looking for, he did get a chance to have a picture taken with the Eagles running back that seemed to sooth the relationship between the player and fantasy football owner.

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