America Supports You: Celebrities Pause on Red Carpet to Thank Troops
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2007 Celebrities attending the 79th Academy Awards last night took time out from posing for the paparazzi and giving dozens of interviews to thank the men and women of the armed forces for their service.
Former soldier and award nominee Clint Eastwood expresses his thanks to the men and women of the armed forces before the 79th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 25. U.S. Army photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Reserve soldiers from the 222nd Broadcast Operations Detachment, based in Los Angeles, donned their dress uniforms to step up to the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre to record words of encouragement from Hollywood “A-listers” to broadcast to troops deployed around the world.
The unit conducted interviews as part of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program. The program recognizes U.S. citizen’s support for the military and communicates that to servicemembers and their families at home and abroad.
Army Maj. Lee Reynolds, the unit’s commander, said the awards ceremony offered a great opportunity to show servicemembers that the movie industry supports them.
“No matter what people think about politics, there is an overwhelming support for the troops out here,” Reynolds said. “We thought this would be a huge morale booster to the troops to get that message out to them.”
“I’ve been in the military and around it most of my life,” said Clint Eastwood, who was nominated for directing “Letters from Iwo Jima.”
“It’s a pleasure to pay tribute to the military, especially our military,” said Eastwood, who served three years in the Army after being drafted in 1951.
Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Biel, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Helen Mirren, Queen Latifah and Tobey McGuire were just a few who stopped by to give interviews to the Army soldiers taping the pre-show festivities.
“It’s really not fun here,” dead-panned Robert Downey Jr. as he looked into the camera. “You’re better off -- trust me. It’s kind of a drag, high-stress -- you wouldn’t understand that, would you?
“Seriously, we have much love and respect for what you’re doing,” Downey said. “We’ll see you when you get back with the mission accomplished.”
“Pan’s Labyrinth” star Doug Jones has firsthand appreciation for the sacrifices of the military and their families. His brother is an airborne Ranger currently serving in the Army.
“I love all of you over there. Thank you for what you’re doing for my safety,” Jones said. “You’re doing something I can’t do, and I appreciate you for that. ‘Hooah’ to all you guys!”
Music legend James Taylor turned his words of encouragement into the familiar tune of a military cadence. “Here we are at Oscar night, hope you dudes are feeling alright. Sound off -- one, two, three, four!”
Award presenter former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, offered their words of encouragement as they passed by the cameras.
“Thank you all so much for serving our country. We are more grateful to you than words can express,” the former vice president said. “We care about you and your families. Thanks for what you’re doing.”
Legendary movie director George Lucas encouraged troops to “keep up the good work.”
“I know it’s tough over there, but keep going,” he said. “Persistence will win out,” he said.
A few fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous parading down the carpet asked to have their notes of thanks recorded for the troops.
“We wish you were here with us to see whoever you’d like on the red carpet,” one woman said. “As far as I’m concerned, you all are my stars. We love you. Stay safe.”
The 222nd conducted more 45 interviews from stars and fans alike. The television entertainment program “Access Hollywood” offered up their work space and donated satellite time for the soldiers to send the footage to the Pentagon Channel for distribution to American Forces Networks worldwide.
Word quickly spread along the red carpet that members of the unit were asking for celebrities to sign an album for fellow public affairs troops who are soon to be deployed.
“The book we had (them) sign for the 302nd (Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) was a huge success,” said broadcaster Staff Sgt. Addie Collins. “We got great pictures and a wonderful album to send our fellow soldiers as they ship off to Iraq. In fact, the stars were looking for us to see where they should sign.
“This is a tradition we hope continues for years to come,” she said.