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USO Brings Stars, Smiles to the Troops

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December 16, 2004

[Have an opinion about the issues discussed in this article? Sound off in our Discussion Boards.]

By Ron Jensen,
Stars and Stripes European edition

(Photos by Ron Jensen / S&S) Comedian Robin Williams was a big hit Tuesday night at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq, during a brief USO show stopover.
Actor-comedian Robin Williams poses with troops at LSA Anaconda, Iraq, after his USO show Tuesday at the base. Many troops were able to pose for photos that were then placed on the base Web site for downloading.
Model Leann Tweeden carries some goodies to troops Tuesday at LSA Anaconda. She was making her third trip to Iraq as part of a USO tour.
Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway poses for a photo with Sgt. Samuel Lopez of the 961st Quartermaster Company Tuesday at LSA Anaconda.
Actor and comedian Blake Clark, who was an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam, kept the troops laughing Tuesday at LSA Anaconda.
Robin Williams meets fans Tuesday at LSA Anaconda.

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Iraq — Troops around Iraq got a chance to see it all on Tuesday: Comedy, football and even a good-looking woman.

“Good evening, Balad,” comedian Robin Williams yelled to more than 3,000 troops at Balad Air Base, a reprise of his “Good Morning, Vietnam” movie role.

Then Williams was off and running on a stream of consciousness riff that was sometimes obscene, but other times merely profane.

The troops cheered every “f” bomb, every indecent innuendo and every naughty gesture from the wound-up comic/actor.

They cheered, too, when he spoke of things about which they are familiar, like the C-130 Hercules that brought the show to Anaconda from Baghdad. A good airplane for the deaf, he called it.

“I like when the crew puts on Kevlar and says, ‘It’s perfectly safe, Mr. Williams,’” he said.

Williams was the star, but he was not the only entertainer. Model Leeann Tweeden, former NFL quarterback John Elway and comedian and actor Blake Clark were on the bill as well. Accompanying them was Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. The group is visiting several locations overseas.

Tweeden, who has visited Iraq twice before on USO tours, acted as emcee for the show. Because of the chilly night air, she was bundled in a heavy coat, to the disappointment of many GIs.

“If I take my coat off, I’ll freeze,” she said to a crowd that cared little about her comfort.

She thanked the troops for their service before introducing Elway, the Hall of Fame signal caller for the Denver Broncos.

Elway said he was surprised to get an invitation for the tour. He couldn’t sing or dance and wasn’t much to look at, he said he told the man on the phone asking him visit American troops.

“He said, ‘How’s your arm?’” Elway recalled. “I said, ‘I can still chuck it,’ so look out, guys.”

With that, the arm that won two Super Bowls tossed a few dozen footballs into the crowd, even reaching those in the high seats at the outdoor stadium.

“You make me proud to be an American,” said Elway. “What you guys do makes what I’ve done nothing.”

Clark, known for roles in movies such as “The Waterboy” and “The Ladykillers” and the “Home Improvement” television show, led an infantry platoon in Vietnam.

Looking at the lineup of dignitaries that accompanied the show, he said, “Last time I was around this many generals, they made us invade Laos.”

His jokes were heavy on satirizing his southern roots. He was born in Georgia and said he had flashbacks while still in Vietnam.

Clark said he has a lot in common with President Clinton.

“We’re both from the South. We have the same initials,” he said. “But unlike him, I went to Vietnam, and I did inhale.”

Before leaving the stage for the headliner, Clark turned serious. Speaking as a combat veteran, he said, “Take it from me, years from now … you’ll remember this. You didn’t read about it in a book. You didn’t see it on TV. You lived it. And nobody can take that away from you.”

Williams rambled at the speed of an F-16 from one topic to another, stopping on one only long enough to get a laugh or two before rolling on.

When one female soldier shouted out, “I love you, Robin,” he said, “There’s one lonely woman. If you’re attracted to me, you’ve been here too long.”

When a male soldier shouted something similar, he said, “You know we can’t get married, but we can have a good time.”

At the show’s end, Williams posed for group pictures, which will be available in a few days on the Web site for the 1st Corps Support Command at www.bragg.army.mil/coscom/. Clark joined Williams for the photos while Elway and Tweeden signed scores of autographs.

“I enjoyed it,” said Airman Johnathan Roche of the 887th Customs Squadron. “Time well spent.”

Pfc. Richard Smith of the 502nd Engineer Battalion lived out a fantasy Tuesday night. The longtime Denver Broncos fan got Elway’s autograph.

“It’s like a dream,” he said. “It’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

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©2004 Stars & Stripes. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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