News: 'For the Leathernecks' tour brings laughter, smiles to service members
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Marines and sailors at Marine Corps Base Hawaii were grinning from ear to ear as they took in a performance by “For the Leathernecks Comedy and Entertainment Tour III,” Dec. 3, 2013.
Comedians Mike Epps and Tom Green, rapper Big Mike and dance group Purrfect Angelz unleashed the bass, the jokes and cheers. The comedy tour, which is sponsored by the Single Marine Program at Headquarters Marine Corps, has brought entertainers like Rudy Rush, Kimberly Cole and Gabriel Iglesias to the stage.
“We just want to make sure the Marines have fun, that’s what Headquarters wanted,” said Michael A. Brown, the program specialist at the Single Marine Program and Recreation Centers in Quantico. “This is what the Marines asked for, and we hope to continue this.”
Big Mike began the performance by bringing up members of the audience to participate in a dance off. Sgt. Collins Foster, warehouse chief at Combat Logistics Company 35, Pfc. Victor Mancilla, a reproduction specialist from Combat Camera, Lance Cpl. Arvey Atkinson, Global Combat Support Systems clerk from Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Lance Cpl. Lee Whisenant, a radio repairman with 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment and Pfc. Jezer ColonLeon, a radar technician at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, sang and danced to songs such as “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus and “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice.
Green, who currently hosts a talk show on AXS TV warmed up the crowd with a few jokes.
“It’s been great,” Green said of the reception he receives from the military. “Like Bob Hope said, they’re the best audiences in the world that you can perform for and certainly always a great reception. It’s been a lot of fun and I certainly have a lot of respect for the work they do overseas.”
Green, who worked on various TV shows over the years, and also performs stand-up comedy nationwide, has performed for troops in places such as Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He will also be performing at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
“It’s good to get out there and have some fun with the troops,” Green said.
Green then introduced the Purrfect Angelz on stage.
The Purrfect Angelz, based out of Los Angeles, have performed at least 10 shows in Iraq and Afghanistan for the military. Lisa Ligon, the Purrfect Angelz founder, said many of the group’s dancers are former NBA and NFL cheerleaders and have performed USO shows with their team before. The group wanted to continue performing for the military.
“We’re so lucky to be sharing the stage with these amazing comedians,” said Amy Hessler, a professional dancer with the Purrfect Angelz. “We’re so grateful and honored to be performing for the Marines in Hawaii and it’s just such an honor to be here, all together.”
The dancers performed various numbers to songs such as “Born in the USA,” and “American Woman.” The ladies also sang a rendition of “God Bless the USA,” dressed in red, white and blue.
“I feel blessed to be able to perform for the troops and for any branch of the military,” said Kelsie Koziol, a professional dancer with the Purrfect Angelz, whose parents both served in the Army. “I feel really grateful to perform for them.”
“When we performed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of gratitude was insane,” said Kristine May, a professional dancer with the Purrfect Angelz.
“I’ve never felt that special and that thanked for anything I’ve ever done in my life. And it was crazy because I felt like how could they be so grateful for us coming over there when they’re the ones risking their lives every day?”
“We’re thankful (to) ‘Leathernecks’ for bringing us on and letting us perform for the Marines and we’re excited to hopefully continue to perform for them,” Koziol said.
After the Purrfect Angels finished, Green and Epps rounded out the afternoon, making the crowd roar with laughter.
“I think performing for the Marines was such a great experience,” Epps said after the show. “To perform for a group of resilient people who protect our country, I was just so pleased to be part of something so great.”
As Big Mike filled the theater with upbeat parting music, a long line of Marines and sailors formed for autographs and pictures with the performers.
“(The tour) was a wonderful surprise,” said Sgt. Ishmael Gonzalez, a Marine from Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
Gonzalez, a 24-year-old native of Lawrence, Mass., and an aspiring performer himself, attended his first Leatherneck tour, Dec. 3, 2013.
“Mike Epps showed a lot of appreciation (for) the Marines, though he said he wasn’t accepted when he tried to join,” Gonzalez said. “The Purrfect Angelz sure lived up to their name with their looks, talent and genuine love for what they were doing. From the short conversations I had with each of them, they exhibited beauty inside and out.”
Gonzalez called Green “charming,” and agreed with many of the observations Green presented in his show.
“I give him props for putting that bug in the ears of the audience whether it was a joke or not,” he said. “DJ Big Mike was great, getting the crowd (hyped) and setting the mood for the rest of the show. I had a good time (and) I would also like to thank them for their support for us troops.”