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Stars and Stripes by Day, Just Stripes by Night

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You might recognize Chuck Carlson as the zebra who roams high school basketball courts in the Brazos Valley. To his fellow soldiers in Iraq, he's known as "sir."

"I've always thought refereeing was important," said Chief Warrant Officer Carlson. "I found that life is the most important thing. Being with your family is the most important thing."

And after a year in Iraq with the 420th Engineer Brigade, the cool climates of an air conditioned gym are far better than the 130 degree heat of the Middle East. But just like here at home, Carlson put on another uniform when his day's work was done.

"It was something to give back to these guys, because a lot of them were young kids, and they needed some kind of release," said Carlson. "And somebody had to referee the games."

At Camp Anaconda, there would be one to two tournaments every month, with some 30 or 40 teams, and a lot of fans.

"The whole company would show up, 100 people show up for a team, and they'd all be cheering," Carlson said. "It was really great because they all came together with a common goal."

It's a lesson for soldiers on the battlefield, and for teammates in the heat of competition, one being a life or death lesson; the other, just life. But besides the memories of a year of rebuilding portions of Iraq, Carlson did learn some things about his other job.

"You have to have some patience," he said. "Don't take things personally when people say things to you. Just try to do the best job you can do."

That's all anyone can ask of soldier roaming Iraq, or a zebra roaming the court.