America Supports You: WWE Supports Wounded Warriors
By Carmen L. Burgess
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2006 Thirty wounded servicemembers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center enjoyed a night of professional wrestling fun Dec. 18 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Patients from Walter Reed Army Medical Center watch the action live as wrestlers from WWE duke it out in the ring during Monday Night Raw held in Washington Dec. 18. WWE invited 30 servicemembers to a pre-event reception to thank them for their military service. Defense Department photo by Carmen L. Burgess
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
World Wrestling Entertainment honored the troops during a pre-event reception, where servicemembers got to mingle with professional wrestling stars before watching Monday Night Raw as special guests.
The WWE has been an ongoing supporter of the U.S. military by sending groups to perform for the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last four years. They are members of America Supports You, a Department of Defense program created to connect the U.S. public with members of the military at home and overseas.
For some of the troops who are long-time professional wrestling fans, the night was an experience of a lifetime.
“This is awesome,” said Army Spc. Michael Carrasquillo, 173rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, Vicenza, Italy. “This is so exciting. I can’t believe I’m getting the opportunity to see these guys.”
Carrasquillo, who was injured during an air assault in Afghanistan in 2005, was bed ridden for three months and passed much of his time by watching WWE on television. “It was the only thing that kept me going,” he said. “It was like having a small piece of home.”
Army Spc. Brandon Ferrell, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky., said he appreciated the support he and the other troops are receiving from organization such as the WWE and the American public.
“It makes me feel great when the general public thanks me for my service, it means even more when it’s someone I look up to, like these guys,” Ferrell said.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Davis, 23rd Aviation, has been watching professional wrestling for 23 years. He said he is impressed by the efforts of a big entertainment company in supporting the troops.
“I have a lot of respect for Vince McMahon (WWE founder) and members of WWE,” he said. “They frequently go to Iraq and visit troops. It makes you proud that they care.”
Although the center's 20,000 seats were nearly sold out to WWE fans, the wrestlers considered the troops in attendance to be the true heroes of the evening.
“These guys are fans and treat us like rock stars,” said World Tag Team Champion and former U.S. Marine Randy Orton, “but they are the true heroes.”
Orton, along with about 50 other WWE wrestlers, visited troops in Iraq earlier this month. He said the visit was a "touching" experience that made him appreciate the high caliber of troops serving in the armed forces.
“What I do for a living is extremely hard on the body,” he said, “but it’s nothing compared to what these guys are doing every day. For them to know that we care is half the battle - they can’t get enough of it.”
WWE veterans Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart, who acted as the reception host, and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan signed dozens of autographs and posed for pictures with troops as they offered their thanks to those who have served the country in combat.
Caribbean wrestler Carlito is one of a group of 50 from the WWE who made a December visit the troops in Baghdad. The entertainer has made two trips into the war zone to visit troops.
“It’s important to keep morale high,” said Carlito. “If they can’t come to us, we’ll go to them.”
“It’s important to show our support to the troops whether we support the war or not,” said WWE bad boy Edge, “The Rated R Superstar.” He traveled to Iraq for the first time this month to perform for deployed troops. The event was taped to air on television Christmas Day. “It’s important to support those guys not just during the holidays but throughout the year.”
Several members of the organization have personal ties with those in the military. WWE Diva and women’s champion Victoria is an Air Force brat who well knows the hardships of being in the military. Her mom raised Victoria and her three older brothers on her own while her dad was often away on missions.
She believes that troops and professional wrestlers have a lot in common. They are all passionate and dedicated, she said.
“I feel their pain,” Victoria said. “They are thousands and thousands of miles away from families, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”