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Airman finds DoD softball tournament to be more than just balls and strikes

Tech. Sgt. Kory Strandquist, gets ahold of one during the Dept. of Defense softball tournament in San Antonio, Texas.(Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kory Strandquist gets ahold of one during the Dept. of Defense softball tournament in San Antonio, Texas.(Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kory Strandquist (44) converses with teammates at the Dept. of Defense softball tournament in San Antonio, Texas. (Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kory Strandquist (44) converses with teammates at the Dept. of Defense softball tournament in San Antonio, Texas. (Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kory Strandquist (right) reunites with his friend Leonard Anderson at the opening ceremonies of the softball tournament. (Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kory Strandquist (right) reunites with his friend Leonard Anderson at the opening ceremonies of the softball tournament. (Courtesy Photo)

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, MINN. --

Tech. Sergeant Kory Soderquist, 934th Security Forces Squadron, was the only member of the Air Reserve Component to be selected for this year’s Air Force Softball Team. But if you ask him, that’s not what he remembers most about making the team or playing in the tournament.

When Soderquist reached the final tryouts in San Antonio, Texas it was blistering hot, and as one of 24 Airmen trying to make the team, he thought he’d have a good idea who would make the final cut of 15. “I thought it would be pretty easy to pick out the really great players in the group,” he said. “But this group of guys were all fantastic, I’m glad I’m not the one who had to make the cuts because everyone was so good. What it came down to was who happened to be at their best that particular week.”

Soderquist’s Air Force team would compete against teams from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Sept. 18-24 for the Dept. of Defense championship. While the Army team became the champs, the Air Force team played better than their record reflected according to Soderquist. Their one victory in the tournament came over Navy. A Grueling 32-31 extra innings victory for the Airmen.

While Soderquist slugged his way to the third best batting average in the tournament at .762 and knocked out seven homers, he says the tournament was not at all about individual accomplishments. “I have played with a lot of civilian and military teams during my career, but I have never seen such intense devotion and dedication to playing as a team than these military members demonstrated,” he said. These guys played through some painful injuries and just kept going full throttle, it was all about the team for all the services.”

The trip to the tournament would not have been possible without the support of his fellow Defenders at the 934th Security Forces Squadron.  "Since I am a full time AGR the other members of the SFS had to fill in for me when I was gone.  Everyone at the squadron was extremely supportive, I really appreciate how they stepped up and it was great to get their messages supporting the team and myself during the tournament." 

When not practicing the typical eight hours a day, the AF team visited the Center for the Intrepid, a rehab facility at Fort Sam Houston for amputees and burn victims. “Seeing these people working through their injuries is an inspiration,” said Soderquist. The team also was able to observe the coin and flag ceremonies at Lackland Air Force Base for the newly minted Airmen as they finished basic training.

But for Soderquist the most memorable event occurred while attending the opening ceremony before any games were even played. The guest speaker was a wounded warrior, Senior Airman Leonard Anderson, who was on duty in Iraq as a canine handler when he was blown up by an Improvised Explosive Device. Anderson lost a leg as a result of that mission, but went on to talk about how he found the courage and motivation to continue on. As a young Airman stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana he became good friends and softball team mates with another young Airman. They both became pretty good at the game and vowed to keep playing and keep in touch. As he concluded his speech, Anderson looked out to the audience and said, “My inspiration to keep going and overcome my injuiries is sitting right there, he’s Tech. Sergeant Kory Soderquist.”

That’s what he remembers most about the tournament.