Stars shine for troops in Baghdad
Stars and Stripes June 20, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — There’s nothing like a couple of rock stars, a Playboy pin-up model, a Hollywood movie star and a few sports celebrities to get a hangar of 7,000 troops hoopin’ and hollerin’ — especially when the superstars are there to say “thank you.”
Hangar 42 at Baghdad International Airport became a sweaty sea of brown shirts and desert cammies Thursday as Kid Rock, Leann Tweeden, Gary Sinise and others took center stage to perform.
“When you come back to Baghdad with your children and grandchildren, you’ll see a whole different place,” said Sinise, who played Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump.”
His intro, however, garnered many boos from the crowd.
“Just come back in the winter time,” he jested, mocking the insufferable heat. “You’ll see a free Iraq. … And you can tell your children and grandchildren ‘I did that. That’s what I did.’”
This time, he was cheered.
Music artist Kid Rock kicked off the USO-sponsored show, greeting the troops “with some good ole American attitude,” then flashed his middle finger to the crowd.
He sang a ditty he said he drafted one night in Chicago.
“If I was president, I’d turn all churches into strip clubs,” he began.
“If I was president, I’d give my State of the Union Address from a mile high, smoking a joint on Air Force One.”
The crowd loved it.
But it went wild when he began singing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“This beats what I’d normally be doing,” said Spc. Daniel Hrubes, 20, a mechanic with Special Troop Battalion, V Corps, out of Heidelberg, Germany. “I work on vehicles pretty much all day, every day. That’s what I do.”
What a boost for troop morale, said Spc. Jerome Robinson, a nuclear, biological and chemical expert with the 69th Chemical Company, 1st Armored Division. “This is worth it, definitely worth it. It changes the whole mood, and morale, it’s the highest I’ve ever seen it.”
Spc. Richard Murray, 29, with Troop E of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Polk, La., arrived at the terminal at 9:30 a.m. for the 2 p.m. show.
“I wanted to get the front row,” he said.
“It’s a 116 degrees in the shade and you give me the chills,” Christy Ferer, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, told the troops. “I have to say we think about you every day. Not a day goes by where we don’t think if you’re safe.”
Jason Taylor of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and Duce Staley of the Philadelphia Eagles shared their thanks with the troops and the ensemble of celebrities made their way through the crowd to shake hands and sign autographs on caps, books, a toy duck, and even the butt of an M-16 rifle.
“This is our release and our escape, to find something familiar from back home,” said Sgt. David Whipp, 31, an activated Maryland Army National Guardsman with the 115th Military Police Battalion out of Hartfield, Md. “This is a great release from the daily grind and from missing our families and friends.”