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Laughin' with The Troops!

 article about Laughin with The Troops!

This article belongs to In Search of Laughs! column.


(A lesson in personal humility)


 


From Subic Bay in the Philippines, to a 2,000 seat arena on the Island of Diego Garcia in the Pacific Ocean, when I have been onstage doing comedy shows for our Armed Forces, I've known I had two things in common with them: the first was we were all proud Americans, the second was this far away, we all missed home!


 


Historically, the two most popular overseas shows have always been the incomparable Bob Hope, and The Cowboy Cheerleader's tour. Mr. Hope's trips made generation after generation of Americans feel remembered and appreciated. The Dallas Cheerleaders always renewed memories of what is so unique and fun about our homeland.


 


USO performers rarely receive pay.  In fact, we pay for most of our food and housing, but it's always a very low military rate. Plus, a per diem check from the local Recreation office covers almost everything. While in I was in Manila, I lived in the Hilton's Ambassador Suite for $18 dollars a day. Not bad work, if you can get it! Maboohay!


 


Morale and Recreation officers worldwide actually make these shows happen. Without their attention to the hundreds of little things needing fixing, the performers wouldn't survive the trips. My utmost thanks to these energetic individuals who don't get thanked enough for their effort! My special thanks to the Morale Officer who helped me find the same tailor in Bangkok, Thailand, who handmade suits for my father, twenty years earlier.  Mr. Lee (the tailor) gave the Morale officer a free suit too.


 


Since the Korean War, the United States has had more than thirty million troops serve overseas in the most mind-boggling locations imaginable. Some comics think these "duty-honor-country" people deserve a few extra laughs, and we are willing to go anywhere the troops are based, to make that sure that happens.


 


From the K9 Naval Air Station, south of Seoul, Korea, to the Air Force Base in Kyoto, Japan, the performing experience for me basically amounted to commenting on familiar icons at home, and what we'd all do when we first got back.  Nobody wants to hear bad news or criticism: just remind us about what's happening while we're gone, and make us laugh-Mr. Red Shoes guy!


 


Just a word about mission, theirs and mine: It makes no difference if one's mission and orders are popular, or not.  When in the service of your country, you follow your orders, and you complete your mission. That's the job they signed up for, that's the job they'll finish. The same goes for the performers. We do our job. We finish our mission.


 


I found that doing my job was difficult enough with all the travel and pressure of being dependably funny at times of the day I'd never done shows. (9am, Noon, and 5pm on an aircraft carrier.) The military doesn't want to hear about comedy being funnier after dark. But, I wasn't risking my life and my limbs, as our soldiers do.  I wondered where they got the strength to do what they had to do.


 


I admit its fun being a standup comic.  Now that I think I know what I'm doing onstage, it's also pretty easy. But, I'm just some goofy guy.  I'm white on top, (hair) red on the bottom, (shoes) and funny in the middle. I felt quite insignificant when I stood alongside our men and women in uniform. Those Americans are busting a gut to do a real job,


worldwide; they are really making a big difference in the world, and inside themselves. Don't forget them!


 


Now that 1.6 million servicemen and women have done their duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and returned home, ask any of them who saw a USO or DOD Overseas Show…ask them if they enjoyed it.


 


Day after stinking day, our servicemen and women, stand tall overseas.  It's only fitting they should receive a few visits from entertainers thanking them for all of  their sacrifices. Wherever they are dispatched, our citizen soldiers take a parcel of our shared American experiences with them, and hold it close. I will always hold these memories just as close. It's a honor and privilege to laugh with them all.



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