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    SMA, USO team up to bring Christmas cheer to Mosul

    SMA, USO team up to bring Christmas cheer to Mosul

    Photo By Creighton Holub | Dallas Cowboy's Cheerleaders Laura Beke (left) and Shenythia Willie (right) celebrate...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs

    By Sgt. 1st Class Brian Sipp
    4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, in conjunction with the United Service Organization, visited the troops of Task Force Lightning at Forward Operating Base Marez, in Mosul, Iraq, Dec. 16, as the first stop in Iraq on a Christmas tour of U.S. bases in the Central Command area.

    Accompanying the SMA were hosts and celebrities Al Franken, of Saturday Night Live fame, and model Leanne Tweeden, one of the hosts of The Best Damn Sports Show Period; country music stars Keni Thomas, Shevy Smith, Mark Wills, and Darryl Worley; as well as the hip-hop brother and sister team of Jekob and Rachael Washington, known as the Washington Project. Backing up all the artists was the world-famous U.S. Army Band, and special guests Laura Beke and Shenythia Willie, members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

    Preston addressed the assembled crowd and brought the performance into perspective. "When you look at the entertainers that are performing tonight; they could be someplace else other than here. They spend their entire year out on the road, doing what they do to make a living. Christmas is a special time for entertainers, whether it's the movie industry, or the music industry, for them to spend with their families. All the entertainers here tonight have chosen to be here with you."

    The theme of solidarity and support was echoed as each artist spoke before their performance.

    "There is only one reason we're here, because you are all family to us," agreed Jekob Washington, one half of the Washington Project. My father was in the Army for 20 years; so you are all family," he added.

    Connections to the military could be found in many of the performers, but none more evident than Keni Thomas. Thomas, a former Army Ranger and veteran of Task Force Ranger in Somalia in 1993 (made famous by the movie Blackhawk Down), and now a rising country music star, added his own understanding of serving as a Soldier. "It doesn't matter what battle you are in, or what war you are in; it always comes down to the man on the left and the man on the right of you. That's what it is all about."

    Mark Wills and Darryl Worley each performed sets full of tributes to the American troops and representative of the patriotic spirit that surrounded the show. Worley dedicated a song to the wife and children of Sgt. Brent Dunkleberger, a 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Soldier who was killed four days prior, and whose memorial service was attended by the performers, just hours earlier.

    "Being invited to attend a memorial like this really brings everything home," said Worley. "I could tell what Sgt. Dunkleberger meant to everyone who knew him from the love and emotion in the voices of those who spoke about him."

    Switching between the reflective and somber moments and transitioning into upbeat humor and music, the artists touched on every emotion present in the audience.

    The show featured skits between Franken and Tweeden as well as several different audience-participation vignettes that involved Soldiers from the audience.

    As the three-hour performance drew to a close, the entire cast joined hands with the audience and sang a stirring rendition of "Stand by Me" to close out the show.

    The USO representatives, cast, crew, and SMA are scheduled to play several more dates throughout Iraq before heading to Afghanistan.


    Date Taken: 12.16.2006
    Date Posted: 12.18.2006 15:12
    Story ID: 8614
    Location: MOSUL, IQ

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