News: Leatherneck Comedy, Entertainment Tour returns to MCB Hawaii for second year
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii - Marines and sailors laughed, clapped and cheered as Kimberly Cole and Gabriel Iglesias took to the stage at Dewey Square for a special performance, Dec. 12.
For a second year in a row, the Headquarters Marine Corps-sponsored “Leatherneck Comedy and Entertainment Tour” is visiting numerous Marine Corps bases, including Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
The afternoon kicked off with free lunch for the service members, provided by the Single Marine and Sailor Program, as well as soft drinks from United Services Organization Hawaii.
During the first portion of the show, Cole and her team performed several hits, inspiring cheers and smiles. Several Marines and sailors were even recruited to share their dancing skills on stage.
Lance Cpl. Matthew Avila, a gunner with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment participated in a “dance-off” with a fellow Marine on stage. The native of El Paso, Texas, said he was nervous about being onstage with an entertainer for the first time. He said he thought he’d be dancing to a techno or house beat, but was instead competing with Sir Mix-a-Lot and Britney Spears songs.
“(Kimberly Cole is) a very good singer and dancer,” Avila said. “(This is the) first time I’ve seen Gabriel Iglesias. I like him a lot.”
“There are many programs and activities that are provided to support our families aboard the base,” said Karley Peterson, Single Marine and Sailor Program coordinator. “We also want to ensure we provide programs and services that also support our single Marines and sailors on the installation. We’re hoping that by featuring entertainers as big as Gabriel Iglesias, it would be a big draw to our target audience.”
Headquarters Marine Corps provided this exclusive tour for Marines and sailors aboard Marine Corps’ installations.
“(The purpose of the tour is to) improve the quality of life for the Marines and sailors,” said Donna Morsi, the supervisory program manager for Recreation and Deployment Support at Headquarters Marine Corps.
Morsi is one of three coordinators for the tour, along with Nancy Pasternack, the commercial recreation program specialist, and retired Sgt. Maj. Michael Brown, the Single Marine and Recreation Center Program Specialist.
Morsi described the feedback for the last tour as wonderful. She said the majority of surveys and studies that came back detailing what the Marines wanted all echoed the same desire: entertainment.
“We wanted to be able to go to units that were returning from deployment or a major training exercise and provide them with some entertainment, and the type of entertainment they like,” Morsi said.
She remembered when she was at the performance in Okinawa, she said Marines were approaching her and Brown after the show to express their gratitude.
“(They said) we don’t know how to thank you because we needed the stress release we just didn’t know it,” Morsi said. “So it’s been amazing ... I cannot tell you (about) the fun and enjoyment they had. They were really grateful.”
The excitement is felt among the performers as well.
Cole, who hails from Orange County, Calif., recently co-hosted the 2012 American Music Awards. She is currently working on a new album, a song scheduled to release in January and she has a show called “FM” (Fashion + Music). Cole has not been in Hawaii since the last Leatherneck tour show, and is eager to return, and spend more time in the islands.
“The reason why I am an artist is to make people happy and to give back,” Cole said. “These shows make me feel like I’m living what I set out to do … I wish I could do more shows like this. This is the reminder of why I do what I do.”
Cole said during these tours, she has met “interesting, amazing people,” and has even kept in touch with a number of them through social media outlets.
Though Cole was part of the tour last year, this was a first for Iglesias, who has performed for service members through other venues, including Afghanistan.
Iglesias, a native of Long Beach, Calif., has been featured on various television shows and has toured worldwide. He will also soon be filming season three of “Stand-Up Revolution.”
“Performing in a hot zone is kind of intense,” Iglesias said. “You want to enjoy yourself, you want to bring joy but at the same time it’s always going on in the back of your head, ‘what if something goes down?’”
But like the Marines, no matter the clime or place, Iglesias has performed in numerous countries for various people.
“Someone wants to laugh, I go there,” Iglesias said.
Morsi added some entertainers enjoy performing for service members some much that they have been willing to go above and beyond to accommodate performances for them.
“(The entertainers) come to understand the esprit de corps,” Morsi said. “They have gained a respect for the Marine Corps.”