News: Hijinks, High Kicks give troops high morale
Story by Pvt. Samantha Stoffregen
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti- The posters advertising them around camp read punch lines and pom-poms, but these women are more than just pretty faces with witty senses of humor. Comedians Carole Montgomery and Leighann Lord, and Miami Dolphins cheerleaders Kellie Covington, Fabiola Romero and Amy Madill, make up the Hijinks and High Kicks Armed Forces Entertainment tour that visited Port-au-Prince from April 27 thru April 29.
"We did three shows for the troops [here in Haiti] to show our appreciation," Covington said.
The women's visit to Haiti focused around performing for the troops and boosting morale, but that doesn't mean they didn't get to do a little sight-seeing themselves.
"We had a helicopter ride," Lord said. "We were able to get an aerial view of Port-au-Prince and see some of the damage and some of the beauty [of Haiti]. Everything in the news has been about what's happening and of course about the earthquake and all the organizations trying to help, but we forget some of the beauty of this country. We were able to see some of that from the helicopter."
The women all agreed that the helicopter ride was eye opening and enjoyable, even if the pilots had some fun while they flew.
The pilots were messing with the cheerleaders, swerving back and forth, Montgomery said. Although the cheerleaders got nervous at points, the two comedians just put their hands in the air and enjoyed the ride.
Following the Blackhawk tour, the group drove to LSA Dragon and saw more of Port-au-Prince from the ground.
"On the drive to [LSA Dragon], we drove through the streets and got to really see what's going on," Romero said. "The buildings are demolished; there are people on the streets. There are tents that have people living in them."
Montgomery said that people don't really see the true depth of the destruction until they are here and see it firsthand.
"You see the stuff on the nightly news about the devastation but you don't realize it until you really see it and people have no idea what it is really like down here," Montgomery said. "We, as Americans, take for granted that we have food every day and running water and toilets."
During their visit, the women held a schedule similar to the troops. They ate meals, ready-to-eat (MREs), dealt with the heat and humidity and found themselves wishing for the little comforts in life.
"The heated meals that come in a box, they've got to do something about them," Montgomery said. "Get a Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, something. I think that was a low point for me."
Before the show, the women were able to enjoy a hot meal and sat down to eat and mingle with the troops in the chow tent.
Spc. Darwin Quinteros, wheeled vehicle mechanic, Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion, U.S. Army South, along with several other Soldiers, sat with Madill and talked about how she got into cheerleading, college and the show.
"It was a good moral booster," Quinteros said. "The girls were pretty and we don't see that a lot being deployed. I liked their performance."
The show kicked off with Montgomery talking to the troops, as well as making them laugh.
"I talk about real things," Montgomery said. "I talk about my life, my marriage, my son, just everyday things. I'm the woman that says the things everyone wants to say, but don't want to say because they're embarrassed."
Montgomery said a newspaper once described her as looking so sweet, until she opens her mouth.
"I say whatever I feel," she added.
Lord followed Montgomery's act and then the cheerleaders performed several small dances. To get the crowds involvement, Madill, Romero and Covington quizzed troops on Miami Dolphins trivia and handed out their team's swimsuit calendars.
The troops laughed and got involved and seemed to have a good time, said Lord.
"I'm a comedian," Lord said. "I'm glad when I can bring a little laughter and a little joy. The 20 minutes I spend on stage or the meet and greets do just that. I wish I could do more."
The group was only able to stay three days in Haiti, with their brief stop at LSA Dragon on their second night, but that didn't stop them from wanting to stay longer.
"I would stay here longer if I could," Montgomery said. "If there were more people to entertain, I would stay."
Montgomery said these tours mean a lot to her because her father is a Korean War veteran and it means so much to see the Soldiers. She said her father gets a kick out of her tours because he still remembers Bob Hope visiting him on his deployments.
By the end of the day, the women were packed up and ready head back to their sleeping quarters for the night, but that didn't stop them from spending sometime signing autographs and talking to the troops one last time.
"We feel honored that we can come out here and help you guys [relax]," Montgomery said. "Laughter really is the best medicine."
Romero said being here and seeing the troops is powerful, motivating and uplifting.
"[Soldiers] give you the inspiration to be a stronger person to do more in your community and to stay dedicated to everything in your life," Romero said.
Lord ended her visit by saying to find joy each day and to remember the Soldiers everywhere.
"If you don't have a Soldier in your family, then you know someone who does and don't forget them," Lord said. "We've got men and women all over the world; keep them in your thoughts."