TBLISI, Republic of Georgia --
Georgians and Americans alike gathered at Meskhi Stadium, located in the Vake district of Tbilisi, on May 31, to watch Marines from the U.S. Embassy in Georgia and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa’s Georgia Deployment Program play a friendly game against the Georgian National Baseball Team.
The event was hosted by the U.S. Embassy and the Georgian Ministry of Defense to raise awareness of the Georgian Wounded Warrior Program, which the Ministry of Defense administers. Both teams played hard, but the Marines ultimately lost to the Georgian National Team despite the talent the Marines displayed.
Several Georgian Wounded Warriors were in attendance at the game.
“This is good inspiration for them to be here, in their lives; because some of them lost their leg or hand and so forth. They feel socialized in society and this is a small example of how we’re trying to accomplish that by inviting them, by thanking them, and honoring them for what they’ve done,” said Konstantine Surguladze, president of the Georgian Baseball & Softball Federation and the Georgian State Minister of Diaspora.
The Ministry of Defense has taken major strides over the years to commit resources to take care of their Wounded Warrior population by creating the types of support networks and services that are important to care for them and recognize their sacrifice.
“As we’ve found out, the wounds of war last a lot longer than the war itself,” Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché at the Embassy, U.S. Army Colonel Matt Dimmick said. “Georgians have made a long term commitment to taking care of their Wounded Warrior population for years to come by building some of the infrastructure and creating some of the expertise that will help their Wounded Warrior population as the years go on.”
The partnerships that Marines have established with the soldiers of the Georgian Armed Forces go deeper than just a baseball game. The Marines are currently training the 51st Light Infantry Battalionat the Krtsanisi National Training Centre outside of Tbilisi.
“Even though we’re here in Georgia to advise the Georgian Land Forces for the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, I believe this game paints a strategic message that we fight together, we bleed together, but also enjoy each other’s company in a friendly competition such as this baseball game,” said Lt. Col. Guillermo Rosales, the officer-in-charge of the current Georgia Training Team.
Although bringing awareness to the Georgian Wounded Warriors was the primary focus of the game, many hope the game will raise the profile of the sport of baseball in Georgia as well. Many of the Georgians who attended were not originally familiar with the rules of baseball, but they quickly learned and enjoyed the game immensely.
“I don’t think a lot of Georgians realized that Georgia has a baseball team, and so when I told them we were playing against the national team, they were shocked, saying, ‘We have that here in Georgia?’ So I think the awareness is important also,” explained Staff Sgt. Brandon Rogers, Coach of the Marine Corps team and Marine Security Guard Detachment Commander at the Embassy.
Natia Trapaidze, Deputy Head of Administration at the Ministry of Defense agreed.
“Baseball is not promoted well in this country, but it should be because it’s a good game. It’s a good tool for communication. It’s a team game, you get success if the team is working together and working well.”
Trapaidze added, “We were saying earlier that we should teach our soldiers to also play baseball. Maybe next time, we’ll have the Georgian servicemen play against the Marines!”
Through GDP-I, the Georgian military has trained with Marines to support the International Security Assistance Force. With full battalions working alongside U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, the Georgian Armed Forces is one of the largest troop-contributing nations supporting the NATO-led ISAF.