Henderson excited about start to basketball season
For Lieutenant Levi Henderson and others in the Army National Guard 207th Engineer Company based out of Hazard, they had been waiting for the start of Kentucky basketball’s season — but for an extra special reason.
“I would say the majority of my Company will mark the beginning of the basketball season as the end of the deployment and that chapter in their lives, and feel a sense of homecoming,” said Henderson, who lives in Boyle County.
The 207th Engineer Company is scheduled to be back in the United States this week. The 207th Company, which had 155 members, completed over 30 missions during their deployment in seven different countries — Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria — even though it was the first deployment for most of the soldiers.
“Our engineers were some of the first in Syria building landing strips and operating bases,” Henderson said.
Yet with all the work the company did, the members found a way to keep up with the Wildcats.
“Following sports is a little more difficult while deployed to say the least. Depending on the team, you may find them playing at the USO or on Armed Forces Network. Other than that, you may be able to stream it on smart devices via internet, pending location,” Henderson said. “The most challenging part, however, is the time difference. Kuwait is seven hours ahead and Afghanistan is 8.5, so viewing your sport team’s games is quite a task and takes commitment. We were able to see a few UK games during the NCAA Tournament last year.”
While it might seem sports could be a stress relief for those deployed overseas, Henderson said it was almost the opposite.
“Some may have found stress relief in watching UK and sports games, but I did not find as much relaxation in watching them because of my desire to see them succeed,” he said. “The competitive nature in me kept me on the edge of my seat for the most part. My stress relief is through my gym time.”
At times, the company flew a UK flag supporting the Wildcats. But not all the time.
“We did fly the Kentucky State Flag at our tactical operations center (TOC) every day,” Henderson said. “We felt it was more fitting to represent our great state than our team.”
There are many football fans in the company along with the basketball fans. Henderson said while they were on a mission in northern Afghanistan, one soldier — SPC Billy Welch —stayed up all night to watch the UK-Florida game on his phone. Of course, that was the game UK lost 28-27.
“He wasn’t much count the next day, but we cut him some slack. We were all upset at the outcome but still proud of how hard UK had fought,” Henderson said.
Henderson said SSG Andrew “Benji” Toncray is another die-hard fan in the unit.
“He feels we have a solid football program continuing to develop as a top contender in the SEC. We just have to finish stronger ,” Henderson said. “He’s also looking forward to being among the roar of the crowd in Kroger Field and Rupp Arena again, as many of us are.”
What about the “few” Louisville fans in the 207th and the recent scandals involving the Cards?
“With us being UK fans, UK alumni or just being from Kentucky, you’re always aware of what goes on with your rival,” Henderson said. “Regardless of the problems at Louisville, UK versus UofL in any sport is always a primetime event in our schedules. We look forward to the opportunity of an upset on the field in November (when Kentucky closes the regular season in football by hosting Louisville).
“Many of us are awaiting our return to Kentucky in order to attend games in person. However, regardless of where we may be in the world, we are proud to represent BBN.”