View Full Version : Jocks to GI's Shaq's pen pal army guy.

04-01-2003, 03:33 PM
From: Franklin, YN1 Antonio
Sent: Saturday, March 29, 2003 8:37 AM
To: Shaquille O'Neal
Subject: Good Morning!

Hello Shaq,

How is it going? Things here are going okay over here...besides being a little hot! I've been at Camp AS Sayliyah (Doha, Qatar) for about a month and a half and it has been pretty busy thus far. Our days are long and nights are very short...that's okay; we are here for a reason. Before I talk your head off, I have to ask you: I read that someone accidentally wrote on the basketball that was used in the game when you scored your 20,000th point. Was it noticeable? Did it bother you that much? I saw that the Kings were apologetic.
Shaq, I like you a lot and have much respect for you, but I TRULY and HONESTLY do not want to be bothering you or be a pest. You are a true diplomat for the sport of B-Ball and I'm TRULY honored to be corresponding with you.

I'm 29 years old and I'm from Memphis, Tennessee (born in Chicago). I'm in the United States Navy and have been for the past 11 years. I'm normally assigned/stationed at the Navy Personnel Command (Personnel Headquarters for the Navy) in Millington, Tennessee (yeah, home of the Memphis Grizzlies). I'm currently deployed to Doha, working for the Central Command Headquarters, the Command and Control center for the war.

I have two brothers (I'm the middle child): Mark, the oldest and Lance, the youngest. We were raised in a single parent household, with no assistance whatsoever from our dad...at all. My moms...she is my HEART, she is so giving of herself that I don't want to get into talking about how much she means to me...or I'll be going all night. Okay, back on course...I was pretty smart throughout school...pretty much a nerd! Not a bad thing, now that I know better. Back then, it was a bad thing...peer pressure is no joke! I was always on the Honor Roll and maintained good grades up until the 11th grade...when I knew I had enough credits to graduate...then I slacked off. We grew up in a middle-class (blue collar) neighborhood...not too bad, but not that great either...Moms never let us see the ugly...she shielded us from that.

I really never got into sports at an early age...I played piano for about four years and I dabbled with playing the alto saxophone in junior high, but I never did anything long enough to become an expert at any particular thing...regret it now! College...wow, that was way out of the question...didn't even cross my mind....didn't know about scholarships. The school I was going to at the time, well, how do I say this the correct way? The guidance counselors didn't push anything but military or jobs around the community...didn't push furthering your education or how to go about getting scholarships. Nobody in my family completed college, so there was no advice from anybody with experience. I was in the National Junior Honor Society, Who's Who Among High School Students, Math Honor Society (Junior High), etc. I just knew I wasn't going to college.

As for the military...well, I was in JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Course) in high school and fell in love with the training, the discipline and just the whole nine yards. They were teaching me about leadership...taking responsibility for your actions and some other things that I was just never enlightened to growing up. By my senior year it was time to make a decision...what branch of the military to go to. I knew I wasn't going to the Marines (no knock on them, just wasn't into doing the entry exam of push-ups and pull-ups at the MEPs station). I really wasn't too fond of the Army either (tell your dad, my bad!). It was going to either be the Air Force or the Navy. Well, if you didn't know, the Air Force does not recruit you, you have to come to them. So I did...and it was a nice first impression. But I was just as impressed with what the Naval recruiter had to say. Toss up: should I go Air or should I go Sea? I decided to go sea. It gave me more of an opportunity to see the world. It is 10:30pm local Qatari time and I'm tired...I'll write more later.

Tony Franklin

From: Shaquille O'Neal
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 12:38 PM
To: Franklin, YN1 Antonio
Subject: RE: Good Morning!


First, let me say that you are not a pest and don't think that you are boring me. I have seen a special on the Central Command Center and was extremely impressed with the leadership, dedication and technology there. We truly have the best of the best.
Being a former Army brat I was excited when ESPN contacted me about being part of "Jocks-to-GIs Direct." I count this as truly an honor and a blessing just to communicate with someone so close and committed to preserving peace throughout the world. Lately the first thing that I do after watching ESPN is watch CNN for the war update. I try to watch the Centcom briefing with General Franks or General Brooks, it depends on what went on the night before and where we are at. I love watching the live briefing.

I am glad also to hear that you were raised by a loving mother and it sounds as though you adore her as much as I do my mother. My mother is undoubtedly my favorite girl.

The ball with which I scored my 20,000th point in Sacramento had been written on, supposedly by a fan. It did disturb me. I work so hard at my game and that was a big accomplishment for my family, my teammates and me. In my mind I had already planned to give it to my Dad and I knew exactly where he would put it. The Maloof brothers, the owners of the Kings, had the ball cleaned and then wrote a letter apologizing for the fan's behavior. They are now sending it to me.

Today we are playing your home team. I can't promise that I am going to take it easy on them but the first points are yours.

As much as I enjoy my freedom and enjoy playing the game of basketball, I appreciate more the men and women of the armed forces who allow us the freedom to do what we love to do. I constantly pray for a speedy and safe return for all our troops and their families here and abroad. Now I will be asking a special prayer for you.

Please stay in touch. You can email me as often as you like, I will respond.

Thanks for caring! Be safe. I look forward to your safe return. Say hello to the troops and thanks to all.