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Black & Gold is the best medicine

For Army Capt. James Hart, the remedy is Pittsburgh Steelers football.

“That’s my ‘keep-me-sane’ medicine,” said Hart, a physician assistant for the 10th Mountain Division’s Headquarters and Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion.

The black-and-gold octagon on his office door warns, “Danger Ahead. Stop. Steelers Country.” A “Terrible Towel” lays flat and neat, taking up a third of his desk space. The July image on his calendar shows wide receiver Santonio Holmes cutting upfield, both hands on the ball, tearing down yards.

Hart works in a Level 1 aid station at Camp Victory, Iraw, where he treats soldiers with a variety of ailments. Hart has been a physician assistant since October 2005 and calls the job self-rewarding, because he gets the chance to take care of other soldiers.

“[The job is important] because it keeps our fighting strength up. I’m here to medically ensure our soldiers can stay deployed and continue with the mission.”

This is Hart’s second deployment with 10th Mountain Division. In January 2006, he deployed to Afghanistan, where he had the opportunity to care for local citizens as well as fellow service-members.

Hart works to keep the soldiers here strong, but he said he gets his fighting strength from the “Black and Gold.” He recalled his 2006 just-in-time arrival in Afghanistan for the Super Bowl XL kick-off. The Pittsburgh Steelers squeaked by the Seattle Seahawks to win the Lombardi Trophy.

“We were stoked,” he said about being able to catch the game.

A group of 50 Pennsylvania National Guardsmen, each sporting a Terrible Towel, was stationed at the base where Hart landed. They took over all the best seats in front of the screens at the dining facility to watch the game, he said.

Hart said his affection for the Steelers started when he was 7 years old. He calls Washington, D.C., home, but he picked the Steelers over the Dallas Cowboys while watching Super Bowl XIII in 1979. His team beat his brother’s team, and the fanaticism was born.

“Man, I really like that team right there in black-and-gold,” he remembers thinking. “I’ve been a die-hard fan ever since.”

He really does mean die-hard. When the Steelers and the Cowboys met again in Super Bowl XXX in 1996, Hart said, he threw a chair through a window, punched holes through the wall, ripped up the carpet and tore a couch in half after the Steelers lost.

“I was that kind of upset,” he said. “Let’s just say I was evicted from the apartment. It was a rough day.”

Fortunately, Hart said, he has grown since those college days. “It just might be a grumpy day,” at worst for any Steelers loss this season, he said.

As the National Football League season begins in September, Hart said, he looks forward to the games that will provide some new excitement to his deployment. It doesn’t matter to him that the games will play with a seven-hour time difference. A night game that kicks off at 8 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast won’t start until 3 a.m. in Iraq.

“If you’re a fan, you’re a fan, and you’re going to watch,” he said.

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