By Cpl. Nicholas J. Lienemann
Regimental Combat Team 1
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq – Six World Wrestling Entertainment superstars and divas jumped out of the ring and headed across the world to visit troops at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Dec. 3.
The visit was part of WWE's sixth annual "Tribute to the Troops" tour, and consisted of approximately 55 wrestlers and support personnel touring bases throughout Iraq for three days.
Dave "Batista" Bautista, Victoria "Alicia Fox" Crawford, Mickie James, John "Morrison" Hennigan, Phillip "CM Punk" Brooks, and Mike "Miz" Mizanin were met by more than 300 cheering Marines, Sailors and Soldiers as they took the stage to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
"You guys are awesome and sacrifice so much for us. We are all just so grateful for what you're doing," James said as she addressed the screaming crowd.
Service members waited in line for the opportunity to personally meet each wrestler and shake their hand.
"They're all excited to see us, but honestly we're just as excited to see them," said James. "The whole experience is overwhelming."
"Iraq isn't exactly a vacation hotspot so it's awesome that they were willing to take the time out of their busy schedules and come visit us," said HM3 Terrance R. Jones, a corpsman with Regimental Combat Team 1. "They were all really down to earth and friendly. It was a big time show of patriotism."
Jones, who described himself as being a lifelong fan of wrestling, said the tour reached out to a broad range of fans by incorporating both young and upcoming talent as well as seasoned veterans.
"I remember watching Batista when he made his debut in the ring, and now here I am years later meeting him in Iraq," said Jones, 23, from Sacramento, Calif. "It was one of the best special guest visits we've had out here."
The WWE started the tradition of entertaining troops overseas during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s.
According to the Armed Forces Entertainment website, WWE has sponsored more than 200 visits to military installations both at home and overseas, over the past six years.
WWE was awarded the first-ever Corporate Patriot Award in May 2008 by the GI film Festival for its extensive support of U.S. troops.
WWE will air its special "Tribute to the Troops" edition of the program, featuring footage and interviews from throughout the tour, on NBC, Dec. 20.
This work, World Wrestling Entertainment Superstars Tribute Troops, by Cpl Nicholas Lienemann, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.