Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs Spends Thanksgiving in Iraq
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2007 The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a traveling USO show visited four different locations in Iraq to see troops during Thanksgiving.
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, standing, talks to servicemembers during a breakfast at Camp Liberty, Iraq, Nov. 23, 2007. Cartwright met with the troops to express his thanks for the job they're doing in Iraq. Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright started at Camp Liberty, then moved on to Al Asad Air Base, Camp Fallujah and Balad Air Base, bringing along actor Wilmer Valderrama, model Mayra Veronica and comedian Russell Peters.
Cartwright opened each of the three USO shows by saying he was from Washington and jokingly saying he was “here to help.” He then delivered a clear message that coalition operations, troops’ actions and hard work was making a difference and was not going unnoticed or unrecognized.
The general then introduced Valderrama, who served as the emcee of the show. Valderrama was followed by Veronica, who said troops in Iraq are fighting for a worthy cause. Peters rounded out the show by performing a 20-minute comedy act.
At Fallujah, one of the Marines who saw the show was thankful they came out for the holiday. “It was nice,” said Marine Corps Cpl. John Bartholomeo. “It changed up the day-to-day routine.”
Bartholomeo added he was pleased Cartwright had elected to make the visit, noting that hearing the message “we support you” is much more meaningful when delivered in person.
Another Marine called it a special treat to be visited by top-quality entertainers during the holiday. “Having an actor, model and comedian come out was awesome, especially on Thanksgiving,” said Cpl. Ben McCann, a Boston native. “It’s good to know there’s some people as famous as they are who are levelheaded and want to come out and thank the troops personally.”
Peters said choosing to come see the troops was an easy decision and worthwhile.
“The reason I do it is to see people get happy,” Peters said. “To see people in this type of environment start to laugh again, smile and look at each other in a different way is very rewarding.”
Valderrama, who played the character “Fez” on the TV show “That ‘70s Show,” told the audiences at each location that the work they’re doing is important, and coming to see them was the least he could do.
“All of us in the United States appreciate what these guys do,” Valderrama said. He said it was his responsibility as an entertainer to bring a little bit of home to the troops and “it is a privilege to do so.”
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff public affairs office.)