Soldier's Brother Shows Appreciation to GIs in Afghanistan
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2005 The Byrne family of New York City has now sent two of its sons to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. One, Army Pfc. William Byrne, is back at Fort Drum, N.Y., after a tour of duty in Iraq. The other, Steve Byrne, has been entertaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan this week.
Steve Byrne, part of the four-man comedy on tour in Southwest and Central Asia, does his routine with the troops in Afghanistan on Aug. 25. He said visiting servicemembers there "is the most rewarding and most important thing I've ever done." Photo by Sgt. Adrian Schulte
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Byrne is among four comedians accompanying television star Drew Carey on a comedy tour that marks the first overseas salute to the troops sponsored by the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program and Armed Forces Entertainment.
So far, Byrne said today, the experience has been even better than he had anticipated it would be.
"We have had incredible turnouts, and if these shows had stunk, these guys would have left as soon Drew said 'Good night,' or 'Thank you,'" he said. "But they all stick around in the sweltering heat, waiting to shake hands with and meet Drew Carey, obviously, and then to tell each and every one of us ... that they enjoyed us as well, which is incredibly gratifying."
But, Byrne noted, the tour is not about him or the other comics. It's all about letting the troops know they're appreciated, he said.
He described a grueling day Aug. 25, when the group arrived here in the middle of the night and was on its way within a few hours to perform at three forward operating bases.
"I know that when I go home, I can go to my bed, I can lay down, I can catch up on my sleep," Byrne said. "But these guys can't. They're out here really doing the rough work, so I've got nothing to complain about."
Byrne said his soldier brother was at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
"He heard the first tower get hit while he was in class. They all ran out, and he actually saw the second tower get hit," the comedian said. The experience affected his brother profoundly. He eventually decided he wanted to do something for the country, so he joined the Army, Byrne said.
Byrne said the comedy tour for the troops is the greatest experience he's ever had as a stand-up comic.
"I've gotten to go to some cool places and do some cool gigs," he said, "but this is the most rewarding and most important thing I've ever done."
Comedians usually perform at clubs at night to audiences out for a good time, Byrne noted, but the Aug. 25 shows were all in the daytime for audiences taking a break during what always is a hard day of work. "It just goes to prove just what these men and women go through," he said. "It's just such a change and a break in monotony for them, whereas they're so used to doing the same thing every day." He likened it to a teacher giving students an unexpected recess period and telling them to go out and play.
"That's the kind of feeling you get from these guys," he said. "Oh, we get to not work for a little bit, just to hang out. And holy (cow), there's Drew Carey!"
Byrne said he's been impressed with the dedication of the servicemembers he has met on the tour and has come to realize how important every one of them is to the mission.
"Even when you go into the kitchen and see these guys cooking pizzas," he said. "They don't show that in the commercials, but they're still serving the country and they deserve to be commended. Nobody here should be forgotten. I just wish I had the level of success where I could take two months off to go around and let them all know."