Base jumpers

A group of pro BMX riders return to the Middle East for their seventh tour to entertain our troops.


This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 24 Hall of Fame Issue. Subscribe today!

IT'S NEARLY MIDNIGHT on Veterans Day at an undisclosed military base in the Middle East, and Master Sgt. Aaron Winward is waiting for an autograph in a line that once stood 400 deep. The temperature has yet to dip below 100 degrees, but Winward is not about to pull chute. He's still in awe from what he just saw -- a two-hour Bikes Over Baghdad show featuring BMX pros sending backflips over the heads of high-ranking officers. "When I look back on my years in Iraq, there are very few good days," Winward says. "Today is a good day. You feed off that for months, pulling up videos on your iPhone."

Since the first Bikes Over Baghdad tour in 2009, pro BMX riders have come home with tales of ducking mortar fire and riding in Saddam Hussein's bombed-out palaces. Although this November trip was incident-free, it did strike a visceral chord for BOB founder Christian Schauf and nine riders. Says Chad Kagy, who performed in two shows and several smaller events on the six-day tour, "This is one of those pinnacle moments I'll never forget."

The feeling is mutual.

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