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Wrestlers Put Smile on Wounded GI's Face

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2003 – When Army Pvt. Fernando Gonzalez heard that professional wrestlers "Bradshaw" and "Faarooq" were visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center recently, he got excited and asked for them to visit his hospital room.

Gonzalez, 18, who was shot in his left thigh five days after arriving in Iraq, said he has been an avid wrestling fan since he was a kid. But he noted that he hasn't had a chance to watch many matches since joining the Army.

Calling Bradshaw and Faarooq his favorite wrestlers, Gonzelez said, "They're one of the greatest tag teams. I like the way they wrestle."

The Riverside, Calif., native, joined the Army in August 2002 because, "That was the best thing for me to do, at the time," and it was "a stepping stone going into law enforcement."

He said he didn't opt to become a military policeman because "the scout job caught my attention. I like riding around in a humvee, doing reconnaissance. It's exciting. It gives me an adrenaline rush. It's a challenge."

The 3rd Infantry Division soldier entered Iraq on March 19 and was shot five days later.

"I was wounded in my left thigh in a town called Samawah," the teenager told Bradshaw and Faarooq. He was treated in the combat area and then medivaced to Kuwait. After further treatment at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, he arrived at Walter Reed on April 6.

The wrestlers asked him if he would rejoin his unit in Iraq if he could, Gonzalez said, "Definitely! I miss those guys."

Before leaving Gonzalez's bedside, Bradshaw and Faarooq gave him a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) T-shirt, which put a big smile on the wounded soldier's face.

Gonzales said later, "They're pretty big guys, but they're real people. They're really down-to-earth people and they're easy to talk to. The fact star wrestlers visited me makes me feel good."

The tag team of Ron "Faarooq" Simmons and John Bradshaw returned to World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, in February as "The Acolytes." Both had been out because of injuries.

Bradshaw said, "When I was on a USO tour, I told Sgt. Maj. (of the Army Jack L.) Tilley that I feel bad about never being a soldier. He said the main thing is every American has got to find what they can do to support our guys.

"This is what I figure I can do; I love these guys," Bradshaw said. "These guys give us the freedom we enjoy. They have to live an abnormal life in places where they don't choose to live sometimes because they're fighting for our freedom.

"So this is my way of saying thank you very much to these guys for what they've done," the popular wrestler said." They've done a hell of a lot."

Bradshaw said his first impression when he first saw wounded service members was compassion. "It's amazing that these guys are willing to do this," he said. "And the main thing they want to do is go back, which is amazing."

Asked what prompted him to visit hospitalized wounded soldiers from Iraq, Faarooq said, "Why wouldn't you come to visit these guys? For what they're doing for us over there, sacrificing their lives, this is the least I could do. I wish I could do more."

Faarooq and Bradshaw then rushed off to visit another wounded soldier.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageWrestlers "Faarooq," right, and "Bradshaw" pose with Army Pvt. Fernando Gonzalez after presenting the wounded soldier a WWE (World Wrestling Entrainment) T-shirt during a visit recently to his room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageWalter Reed Army Medical Center commander Maj. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley greeted professional wrestlers "Bradshaw," center, and "Faarooq" when they arrived recently at the hospital to visit patients wounded in Iraq. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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