America Supports You: WWE Stars Come Out for Wounded Troops
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 13, 2007 Army Spc. Timothy Lott gripped his walking cane as he prepared to meet some of his lifelong heroes.
Marine Officer Candidate Justin Gerhardt poses between World Wrestling Entertainment legends Ron Simmons (left) and Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart before WWE's Monday Night Raw event at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., March 12. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I’ve been a wrestling fan for 27 years,” he said at the Verizon Center’s posh Coach’s Club here yesterday evening.
Lott was one of about 40 injured veterans Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Wounded Warrior Project brought here for a reception and the Monday Night Raw event hosted by World Wrestling Entertainment.
WWE and the Wounded Warrior Project are members of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, which highlights the public’s support for the nation’s troops and their families.
Lott was injured traveling in a convoy in Afghanistan. To avoid an accident with an errant civilian car, the driver of Lott’s vehicle hit the brakes.
“It threw me forward, slammed me back,” he said, “and caused a severed disc in my back and extensive nerve damage in my right leg.”
The invitation to see his wrestling heroes wage war was a thrill for Lott.
“It’s a way we can be shown that they care about -- Oh my God, it’s Jimmy Hart!” Lott said, interrupting himself as wrestling promoter Jimmy “The Mouth of South” Hart burst through the Coach’s Club doors like a sonic boom.
Decked out in sunglasses, bouffant hairdo and sequined jacket, Hart wielded his signature bullhorn -- its speaker painted a fleshy pink with teeth around the rim -- a prop that has amplified “The Mouth of the South’s” career since 1985.
Lott, wide-eyed and star-struck, leaned on his cane to steady himself.
“May I have your attention, please?” Hart boomed into his bullhorn with a Memphis twang. “Hey, good to see you guys!”
Cranking up the decibels, Hart told the gathering he has a special affinity for servicemembers.
“I gotta tell you, my son’s in the 101st Airborne (Division),” Hart told the crowd, which replied with an emphatic “Whup, Whup!” “He’s about to get sent over there for the second time,” the wrestling promoter continued. “I just want to say, ‘Thank you all!’”
Gazing at Hart, Lott finished his earlier thought. “It’s great that they would do this,” he said, “because it’s a way to say thank you.”
In December, WWE stars will return to Iraq for the organization’s fifth tour to visit deployed troops there.
Art Myers, director of Air Force Services, said that when WWE wrestlers visit troops abroad, “it’s a huge morale booster.”
“A person was going to re-enlist, and he had the WWE (wrestlers) present while he took the oath of re-enlistment,” Myers said. “It’s happened several times.”
WWE plans to continue to work with Armed Forces Entertainment and America Supports You to undertake visits to troops abroad, and to continue its popular annual Tribute to the Troops visits to war zones during the holidays, said Gary Davis, WWE’s vice president of corporate communications.
Davis said that because of differences in venue and ticketing protocols, WWE no longer is able to offer free tickets to people serving at military bases overseas, but its commitment to support the troops won’t waver.
“WWE continues to offer complimentary tickets to the men and women of the U.S. military for all WWE shows, excluding WrestleMania, that take place in United States,” he said. “WWE’s commitment to our armed forces remains steadfast.”