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Tribute to the Troops

Pro wrestling comes to JBLM, leaves smiles behind

The WWE event on JBLM will air Dec. 28 on NBC

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:37PM December 19th, 2013

Tech. Sgt. Sean Tobin

WWE superstar Big E Langston flies high over his opponent Ryback during a wrestling match, Dec. 11, at JBLM. The WWE Tribute to the Troops event, which entertained thousands of JBLM service members and family members, featured dozens of WWE superstars and divas, and included performances by rock band Daughtry and comedian Jeff Dunham.

George Carter Jr. beamed as he received autographs and snapped photos of World Wrestling Entertainment stars at a meet and greet Dec. 11 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The 12 year old was at the Courage Inn Dining Facility on Lewis Main, meeting his heroes — Rey Mysterio, Sheamus and Mark Henry.

Soldiers, Airmen and their families reacted in the same way with ear-to-ear smiles.

“It was real exciting (to meet them in person),” Carter said. “I only see them on TV and I cheer for them on TV.”

WWE Superstars and Divas spent the day with service members at various JBLM locations, including theMcChord Field control tower, to take part in training exercises. A promotional taping of Tribute to the Troops highlighted the holiday broadcast of an annual event that started in 2003 in Baghdad.

“We feel honored they take the time to come out and support their troops,” said Spc. Reginald Asberry of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. The feeling was mutual from WWE’s biggest names, including multi-time world champion John Cena.

Along with fellow professional wrestlers Santino Marella, Kaitlyn and the Prime Time Players’ Darren Young and Titus O’Neil, Cena spent time with members of the 38th Infantry Regiment at Range 16 on East Gate Road. The Soldiers provided the celebrities body armor, helmets, earplugs and safety instructions for firing a couple military firearms, including M4 carbines. Cena said shooting was an unexpected bonus during their visit with service members, whom they appreciate as much as their fans showed adulation for the WWE stars.

“What I appreciate the most is the Soldiers opening up their home base for us and treating us as one of their own,” Cena said. “For me, a day like today, the most fun is meeting the men and women who serve this country.”

In another group, the WWE brought names to Lewis North’s Warrior Zone like the Big Show, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin and five-time world heavyweight champion Booker T.

“To be able to hang out all day, see the different groups and watch how they interact with the superstars, I’m stoked,” said “Access Hollywood” host Michelle Beadle, who stated she is a “super fan” of the WWE.

The interaction between the WWE superstars and JBLM service members transformed from surface fan adulation to genuine mutual affection at a 7th Infantry Division Purple Heart ceremony, after which the Prime Time Players and several WWE Divas led hundreds of Soldiers in their signature “Millions of Dollars” dance.

Other events included a “Be A Star” anti-bullying campaign rally at Hillside Youth Center, lunches with service members at various dining facilities and a “WWE and Me” reading celebration event with the McChord Child, Youth and School Services.

At the end of the evening at Hangar 4 on McChord Field, more than 3,000 service members and their families enjoyed a show with matches that included Cena, Mysterio, CM Punk and Aberdeen, Wash. native Daniel Bryan.

In addition to the full card, there were performances from multi-platinum recording artist Chris Daughtry — who sang the night before in Worcester, Mass. — and comedian Jeff Dunham with his signature puppets “Achmed the Dead Terrorist” and “Peanut.”

“It’s the least we can do for you guys,” Daughtry said during the 7th Inf. Div. ceremony.

Private First Class Andrew Koehler of the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment saw Tribute to the Troops events in 2006 and 2009 when WWE held events in the Middle East during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It’s the same thing here — they’re chill, laid back and they appreciate us,” Koehler said.

But as Cena said, they appreciate the U.S. military for everything they do in their line of work that gives them the chance to live the type of life they do. It’s why he not only enjoys visiting service members but also is closing in on 400 granted wishes with the Make-A-Wish foundation.

“Being here with these guys and gals and being active with Make-A-Wish, it certainly brings validation to what you do,” Cena said.

For WWE fans that were unable to attend the television taping, a one-hour broadcast is scheduled to air Dec. 28 on NBC. Check local listings for time.