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Cartwright, USO Performers Wrap Up Eight-Day Tour

By Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2008 – USO performers traveling with the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday wrapped up a six-country, eight-day tour to bring entertainment to troops.

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Comedian Edwin San Juan performs his routine during a USO show at Camp Liberty, Iraq, Nov. 14, 2008. San Juan is traveling on an eight-day trip with U.S. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Camp Liberty was one of the stops on an eight-day USO tour. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump

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The tour is the second of its type with U.S. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright. It included stops in Greenland, Alaska, South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Germany.

Cartwright brought comedians Gabriel Iglesias and Edwin San Juan, model Mayra Veronica, and rappers D-Roc and Kaine of the duo The Ying Yang Twins.

Veronica, on her second tour with Cartwright, said she feels obligated to come out to entertain the troops.

“I think that the least as entertainers we can do is bring a little bit of home to them,” she said. “They’re basically risking their lives every single day for the very freedoms we get to enjoy.”

Veronica also said she noticed a difference in the morale of troops between last year and this year.

“Last year, everybody was a bit more unstable and there was a feeling of uncertainty, specifically in Iraq,” she said. “This year, there was a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride. Even though they miss home, they were very happy to be there and happy to be doing what they’re doing.”

The final performance in Camp Victory was an amazing way to end the USO shows, she said.

“The last performance in Baghdad made me extremely emotional,” Veronica said. “I welled up right on stage. It was really an amazing experience and it’s something that’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

D-Roc said the best feeling for him was seeing the looks on the troops’ faces.

“To see them with a smile on their face, I feel like we did a good job,” the rapper said. “We kind of made them feel like they were at home. Just for a second, they were at home. In their mind, they were back at the club. I felt good to bring that here.”

Because of what he saw, D-Roc said his outlook on the military and the wars has changed.

“I do have a newfound respect for the military,” he said. “You don’t know what they go through until you come over here and see it. I appreciate all the soldiers.”

His rap partner said he wasn’t sure what to expect going on the trip, but it caused him to learn some things about himself.

“It’s kind of hurting me to go home,” Kaine said. “I don’t want to go home. I’d rather touch the masses of people that need the motivation.”

He said the best part of the trip was watching the troops dance during their upbeat, end-of-the-show routine.

“We were able to pull some joy out of those people,” Kaine said. “I know a lot of other people have been over here but I bet my life they haven’t been as moved as we’ve been on this trip.”

San Juan, who served as the emcee for the shows, said he was honored to come for a personal reason.

“For me, it’s like my way of contributing to my country,” San Juan said, adding he can’t serve because of severe arthritis in his hands. “I just never thought I’d never be able to serve my country in this way. Indirectly, here I am boosting the morale of the soldiers.”

He said each show was memorable and he wants to come back.

“I’d do it in a heartbeat again,” the comedian said. “I’m doing something for my country.”

The other comedian—who describes himself as “fluffy” because of his girth—said he felt like another person known for his jolly nature and round belly.

“I felt like Santa,” said Iglesias, who gets hundreds of requests to perform for troops. “Somebody asked me to do something and I was able to pull it off. “

Iglesias said performing in front of the troops was “surreal.” He added that the show at Camp Victory in Baghdad was the most unique, partly because of the UH-60s flying overhead during the show.

“It was an incredible feeling,” Iglesias said. “I’ve had a lot of hecklers in my time, but I’ve never been heckled by a Blackhawk helicopter.”

Iglesias also said he has a greater respect for the troops in Afghanistan, who have to go through their tours using austere bathrooms.

“I’m not a porta-potty friendly kind of guy, so I’m going to go home and hug my toilet,” he joked. “I have a whole new respect for my throne.”

(Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)

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Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the crowd during a USO show at Camp Liberty, Iraq, Nov. 14, 2008. Cartwright was on the fifth leg of a trip that included Greenland, Alaska, Korea and Afghanistan. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump  
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