Tour for the Troops
Celebrity performers entertain troops
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BAGHDAD — More than 1,000 U.S. service members packed an open field on a chilly Baghdad day, Dec. 4, to watch the 2009 “Tour for the Troops” at Sather Air Base.
James, whose father is a col. in the AF, said that the tour holds a special place in her heart, because she knows military life very well. “I’ve lived in 14 different places my whole life, and loved every part of it,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this my whole life and I’m very glad to be here.”
For funny man Carlos Mencia, the tour was a way to thank the people who serve day in, day out to protect his freedoms as an American, he said. Mencia was born in Honduras, a fact he joked about quite often during his 40-minute stand up act, and came to America for a better life. “You guys are the reason I’m able to be up on this stage saying whatever I want to,” Mencia said, referring to his 1st Amendment right to free speech as an American citizen. This was Mencia’s second trip to Baghdad to entertain service members.
As the sun set and the laughs died down, roars of excitement echoed off the T-walls surrounding the field as troops prepared themselves for Kid Rock. As he walked on stage, service members jumped to their feet — screaming, throwing their arms up and chanting “Kid! Kid!” “This is the most sober crowd I’ve ever played for,” he joked before opening his set with trademark song, “Bawitdaba.” Kid Rock’s no stranger to performing in Iraq. This tour marked his 6th visit to the country to provide troops with a way to relax from a typical day.
The fact that it was shortly after Thanksgiving and relatively close to other holidays was no coincidence, said AF Reserve PAO, Lt. Col. Ann Knabe. “Tour for the Troops,” formally known as “Operation Seasons Greetings,” is a way for well-known entertainers to show their appreciation and serve as a morale booster to service members for the job they are doing overseas, Knabe said.
Sather AB was the third stop on the 12-day, 7-show tour. Before arriving in Baghdad, the tour made stops in Turkey and Kirkuk, Iraq. From here, they will have 2 stops in SW Asia, one in Germany and one in England. “You think about how they’ve been travelling constantly, in different time zones, to do 7 shows in only 12 days. They’ve put in an amazing effort and it’s turned out great,” Knabe said.
For one Marine, it proved to be an exciting and memorable day. “I’ve never been to a concert in my entire life,” said Marine 1st Lt. Robert Yanez. “I’ve been deployed for one year, and to see this while it was here was awesome.” Yanez, a MNF-West liaison officer serving in the MNC-Iraq Joint Ops Center, said the show was a way for service members to relax and enjoy their day. He said it helps them see that they aren’t here for nothing, because people back in the U.S. truly appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made. “You know, these artists could be touring back home, making millions, but instead they’re here with us right now. It’s amazing,” Yanez said.