IWAKUNI, Japan - Like Shatner groupies at a Star Trek convention, station residents showed up in droves for a meet and greet with television’s “The Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki and executive producer Steven Molaro along with “Southland” stars Regina King, Benjamin McKenzie and Michael Cudlitz as part of the 2012 United Service Organizations Handshaking Tour at the station’s post exchange sound department here May 11, 2012.
Station residents endured a long line to have their chance to meet and interact with the stars, take pictures and have merchandise and memorabilia autographed.
The stars greeted fans with warm smiles and hearty handshakes expressing their appreciation for what the service embers do as they’ve toured across Japan.
“It’s been rewarding,” said King. “We’ve met so many people. We have a bet going on to who gets the closest number of people on the tour. Two or three days ago we were at 1,072 people. Now we might be somewhere around 1700-1800 people.”
For King, seeing and greeting all the people on the tour was a way for her to give back to service members and their families as she has ties to the military.
“I have a first cousin who is a first sergeant in the Army,” said King. “He’s been in for 32 years. Hearing the stories through him has given me a real picture of what you guys sacrifice being in the military and the reasons for a lot of people being in the military. It’s amazing.”
This sentiment was echoed among other tour members who also have connections to the military.
“I wanted to support the troops, I always have,” said Galecki. “I was born on an Air Force base in Brussels. We weren’t there for long but my father worked in a VA hospital outside of Chicago until the time of his death. I believe he worked there 19 years.”
The sight of seeing a favorite celebrity could cause any fan, dependent or service member, to be excited as their hectic schedules can prevent them from taking part in events such as this.
For Galecki, the tour has been equally eye-opening and rewarding since, as a former service member’s child, he does not often get the opportunity to participate in these types of events.
“It’s very rare when I can contribute toward what his life’s work was and what I do,” said Galecki. “It’s one of those incredible opportunities conducive to that. It’s been incredibly eye-opening to me meeting not just the service people but their families. It really puts into perspective the whole family’s sacrifice for the country. I feel honored.”
Service members reciprocated the sentiment as a chance to meet some of television’s best and brightest on the station was something that should be recognized and appreciated.
“It was great,” said Sgt. Tiffany L. Hernandez, station postal clerk and first in line. “We don’t see a lot of [celebrities], so when somebody does stop here, it’s a real blessing.”
The fact the celebrities took time out of their equally pressing schedule was not lost on the service members and it spoke volumes of the stars as well.
“To me, it says a lot,” said Hernandez. “I know they’re really busy and Iwakuni is really small. That’s why a lot of people miss it or they skip over it. So for them to come to Iwakuni, like I said, I consider it a real blessing. I thank them for supporting the troops.”
The handshake tour made several stops at military installations across Japan, including Kadena Air Base and Camp Schwab before arriving in Iwakuni for the last leg of their tour. Once the cast left from PX, they proceeded to Matthew C. Perry High School to have a sit-down with students from the drama class. Lastly, they were given a demonstration of weapons.
Though their stay was short, the chance to meet and greet some of television’s brightest stars was something station residents will not quickly forget.