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USO tour comes to Masum Ghar

Published: 10:46AM January 10th, 2013
USO tour comes to Masum Ghar

Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth

Staff Sgt. Martaliz Merced poses with Washington Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen during a USO tour visit Dec. 16.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan – Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters landed on a small FOB in Southern Afghanistan, kicking up dust and causing a buzz from those on the ground.

Word around the base was that they were going to have some very special visitors, and not of the general officer type.

Celebrities with the United Service Organizations tour visited Soldiers of Combined Task Force 4-2 (4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division) on Dec. 16.

Soldiers brought various items to be signed by the athletes and entertainers.

One Soldier, Spc. Shawn Kanyer, a satellite communication systems operator maintainer with 472nd Signal Company, had a hockey stick that he brought with him to Afghanistan signed by Matt Hendricks of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

“It’s nice to see really anybody from the team, so it’s really nice that he came all the way out here to Afghanistan,” Kayner said.

“It helps keep the morale up,” Kanyer said. “There’s not a ton (of recreational activities) to do out here to keep us busy and whatnot, so any kind of event like this (to) remind us of how it is back home (is) real nice.”

Specialist David Saenz, a civil affairs specialist with 426th Civil Affairs Battalion based out of California, asked country singer Kellie Pickler to sign his guitar.

“I know Kellie Pickler from watching American Idol with my mom back home,” Saenz said. “So, I was really psyched that I got the opportunity to see her out here.”

The visit was more than just a highlight for the deployed Soldiers; it was an eye-opening experience for the celebrities, including MLB team Washington Nationals pitcher, Ross Detwiler.

“These are the Soldiers that have it the worst really because they’re kind of in the battle zone at all times,” said Detwiler. “So, for us to be able to come out and thank them, it’s a real honor because they’re the ones that keep us free at home.”

In order to visit the troops overseas, Detwiler had to cut his own honeymoon short.

“My wife wasn’t mad,” said Detwiler. “We wouldn’t have been getting married to each other ... we wouldn’t have had a honeymoon without the troops.”

Conflicting schedules is often what stops a lot of celebrities from participating in USO tours, said Sloan Gibson, the president and chief executive officer of the USO.

One of the most important things for the people who are able to make it on the tour is to get out to some of the smaller bases because those Soldiers don’t get a lot of visitors, he said.

“It’s a real treat, especially this time of year, to come out here and remind everybody that we’re thinking about them and that we appreciate what they do for us every single day,” Gibson said.

After visiting for nearly an hour, the tour ended and the celebrities left the small FOB with a better idea of how deployed service members live and the Soldiers of CTF 4-2 went about their daily lives with the knowledge that they are not alone.