Soliders Lift Our Spirits By Volunteering
When one thinks of a Marine, the first thought that comes to mind is a lean, mean fighting machine. While this is true, what you don’t think of is the other “humanitarian” side. For the last seventeen years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of producing and performing my stand up act several weeks a year overseas for the troops. Our job is to lift the morale and spirits of the U. S. Military servings their tours of duty. I’ve seen all sides of war. The news covers death and destruction but seldom show the other side of our fighting men and women.
My last trip took us to Djibouti, Africa where the average temperature is in the low hundreds and poverty is far too common. I had the pleasure bringing over fellow comedians and friends Bryan Bruner and Slade Ham along with actress and fitness expert Linda Vu.
We had finished our shows and had a day of before heading up to do shows in Saudi, Qatar and Bahrain. The flights are few and far between and often times it may take a few extra days to get in and out of Djibouti. It took us three days to get there as flights got canceled one after the other. One of the Marines that had been to our show came up and asked if we wanted something to do…and well, since there really isn’t anything to do there, we said yes.
Our bus took us out to one of the many boys orphanage to play soccer with the kids there. The soccer field isn’t so much a field but a dirt lot covered in rocks, trash and broken glass but you wouldn’t know it as the kids took to the field in flip flops and bare feet.
Each week, the Marines serving there round up the strays and go out to spend time with the kids and work on the broken down and dilapidated buildings. They are currently working on the water system so the children don’t have to wash themselves from a community bucket of water and next week they’ll work on building bunk beds so each child has his own bed to sleep in.
After a couple hours of playing, it was time to leave. We took pictures and shook hands with our new friends. When asked why they do it, Nathan Perry, a Marine based in San Diego answered, “ I volunteer my time when I am in these third world countries like Djibouti to remind myself just how great it is to be an American. It also helps me realize that a couple of hours of my time can make a huge difference in how people in these countries perceive not just U.S. Marines but Americans”.
Nate added, “It’s not about making our life easier. It gives me personally some things to look back on my life and sit there and know that I have made a difference not only in the face of the enemy but also with the ones that are effected the most by them. The kids that have no say in what goes on. I look back on my numerous deployments and see that Marines always find a way to put a smile on a child’s face weather it was in Baghdad just giving them a piece of candy from back home or taking a couple of hours our day to play soccer or basketball as we did in Djibouti.
As we were getting ready to leave, actors Christian Slater and Kal Penn (Kumar) came in on a USO Celebrity Handshake Tour. We introduced them to Nate and told them about the orphanage and what the Marines were doing there. Slater extended his hand and said, “It’s truly an honor to be here”. It really is.
Seeing the work the Marines “choose” to do on their off time is a great inspiration. Last week, I got an email from Nate that he just returned home on leave after what he says was, “A long time”. He hugged his family for probably just as long. Nate said, “I am not sure if I will ever make it back to Djibouti. Its looking like either Afghanistan or Japan next time around.... It’s all up in the air.
My comedy tour heads back out and we will be doing tours two weeks a month for the entire year helping lift the spirits and morale of the men and women in the U.S. Military serving around the world but every once in awhile, these heroes lift ours.