- Posted May 23, 2009 by
Las Vegas, Nebraska
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Salute to troops
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Comedian Don Barnhart and actors Christian Slater and Kal Penn visit troops to lift morale
Award winning comedian Don Barnhart and Hollywood Celebrities Christian Slater and Kal Penn head overseas to help lift troop morale.
War and combat is one of the most stressful things a soldier will face and although they train for it, it's not always easy. Right now, we are seeing a huge increase in suicides for the soldiers and I believe that comedy can help to relieve some of the pressure and stress these soldiers are facing.
It has been said that, That laughter is the best medicine. It also turns out that comedy can be a preventative medicine as well. There is a huge increase in the number of suicides by soldiers and providing comedy shows for the troops is just one of the many ways our government is trying to deal with this tragic issue.
For years, comedians have been entertaining the troops. Bob Hope really started it and brought the importance of bringing a piece of home to the men and women serving in the military, says comedian Don Barnhart. Besides headlining at the top comedy clubs across the country Barnhart, an award-winning comedian with numerous television and film credits has been doing tours for Comics On Duty and USO since 1992. He added, We try and get out to where they need it the most by going to the forward bases where they really don't have any entertainment and the stress is at it's highest. We go everywhere we can and might end up in a huge theatre on a domestic tour or telling jokes in a hanger with helicopters taking off around us when we're overseas.
Bryan "Bear" Patridge LTC, MP Commander agrees to the importance of humor, When I was in Iraq on my third tour, we had the Comics on Duty come to our FOB (Forward Operating Base). It was that one show that everyone knew they could come to and let loose and they were going to be entertained. Humor is a stress reliever. Combat zone or not, life for Soldiers is just plain tough at times. When you can throw the proverbial turd in the punch bowl to lighten the already tense mood - things just seem to transform. We have to be able to add some levity and not take ourselves so seriously all the time. Humor is and can be a common bond between the everyday Soldier and his leaders - regardless of rank.
Statistics aren't in but when soldiers create a human connection with others the probability of suicide lowers. Barnhart adds, After the shows, we get to spend time with the troops and just hang out and talk with them. Many of these soldiers are away from their families for the first time and are either headed to or are already in a combat zone and it can seem unbearable at times. It's not like going away to college with frat parties and being able to go home and have your mom do your laundry on the weekends. These people are at war and it's really hard on them." Brian S. Hornback, CMSgt, USAF added, I can echo some of those comments. I remember when Robin Williams came over in 2004, it was Christmas time and you can imagine the feelings being felt by my Airmen during that time. Williams stood for pictures for over 2 hours. Everyone's thoughts of home and what they were doing seemed ever the more important as someone took their holiday time to not only spend it with us but to bring some joy and laughter. Your simple act of gratitude, support and dedication to the men and women in the United States Military not only defines what makes our country so great but remind us of what we're fighting for.
Simple acts go a long way in reminding everyone who wears a uniform of what's important. It is even clearer when celebrities take a moment to show their gratitude as you have so graciously done. Your contributions go a long way in showing us that you remember, as we do, that what we are fighting for is important. The value of your simple act cannot be overstated. The positive effects it brings on the men and women in United States Military are displayed daily by their continued commitment to serve even through trying times. The only thing we can do now is to ensure you that we will take care of this great nation and its people.
" First and foremost, I consider it an honor and privilege to be asked to entertain the troops. I'm extremely fortunate to able to make a living doing what I love and I feel we all have an obligation as an American citizen to support our troops in the best way we know how even if you object to the war itself. Performing for the troops is different than performing at a regular comedy club in the states and once you've done a few tours, you are bonded with the soldiers and there truly is certain sense of camaraderie and understanding.
The reason we come over is to entertain and show our support and to let them know how much we care about them and the job they are doing and show how much we respect them and I think they have a certain respect for us coming over there. We're all in it together as we eat the same food and have to deal with the same amenities. If there's no hot water, then there is no hot water for everybody and sometimes it's MREs (Meals Ready To Eat) for weeks at a time.
At first, I really didn't understand the direct and positive impact doing shows for the troops had on their morale. It's the greatest feeling after a show when everyone is coming up to thank us for entertaining them. So often, I meet a soldier who has been serving so long that he missed the birth of his child and only knows them through pictures. That's not easy so making him laugh can help.
Barnhart just completed a tour for the Armed Forces Entertainment in Bahrain, Qatar, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. We meet up with the USO Hollywood Handshake Tour featuring actors Christian Slater and Kal Penn. "Just to have them over here means the world to the troops. It lets them know they are not forgotten", said Barnhart. "It's truly and honor", added Slater.
Don Barnhart Entertainment is currently seeking corporate sponsors to help provide even more comedy shows to lift the morale and welfare of the troops stationed overseas. We all volunteer our time to come over and it's with the generosity of our corporate sponsors that we can get even more tours to visit the troops. The sponsors help pick up the tab for travel and accommodations. In the past we've had everyone from energy drinks, airlines and phone companies pitching in but now with the economy in a slump it's been a bit harder to fund the tours. We are there doing our shows to show our gratitude to them!
At the end of one show, the colonel brought all the comics up on stage to present us with a certificate of appreciation and their coin and all the men and women stood up and saluted us in thanks. It literally brought all four comics to tears. We couldn't believe how grateful these young men and women were to us for coming over while we were there to show our thanks to them. It's why I keep doing these tours over and over again. The comedy shows are something new for the troops to talk about, it breaks up the routine and monotony and laughter truly is the best medicine.
Remember, some of these men and women over here haven't been home in a long time and we're the only contact they have with being home. I truly feel that these men and women are my family and my job is to make them laugh and forget their troubles, sorrows and hardships for a little while. I've seen the toughest looking soldier laugh so hard he had tears rolling down his checks and after the show, everyone said that guy never even smiles. He came up after the show and gave me a bear hug that almost broke my rib cage but it was great to see him laughing.
Let's face it; being away from your family and friends in a war zone is not a vacation or dream date. We all know the dangers and possibilities. It's sort of an unspoken truth but it also creates and underlying tension and some people have a hard time dealing with it. On one recent tour, we had a chaplain travel with us and he sat in the front row every show. It was a bit unsettling at first but then he explained that if the soldiers could see him laughing at even some of the questionable material that maybe he was approachable to their needs and problems and that he was just a regular guy. It was great because we included him in the show and pointed him out, teased him a bit but letting everyone know him by face. Sure enough, several days after I got back I received a letter from him telling us what a difference it made and that it really opened up a dialogue of communication for him and some of the soldiers. We're all a part of the same team. You might think it's difficult to get laughter from soldiers that are face with war, destruction and horrific conditions but it's not. As long as you're funny!
Comedy has always been a pressure relief valve and it lets the tension out before you snap. The more uncomfortable the situation, the more tension there is and the more you need to release that tension before something breaks. We've all been in those really high-pressure situations. Even as a child when your parents told you to go to bed and keep quite or you'll be in trouble and then you can't contain your own laughter. Or on your wedding day when you're about to take your vows and then start crackin' up. My wife and I both started giggling but that also brought us closer together. As for entertaining the troops, there is no room for mediocre comics at this point. It is a tense situation and I've seen really bad comics loose the crowd. This is why you have to be so picky when putting a show together. We're grunting it out just like the troops so you can't have any prima-dona entertainers running around crying because they couldn't get their eight hours of sleep and mid-day brunch.
Don Barnhart Entertainment is providing comedy shows for the troops. Barnhart, an award winning comedian and host of The Freedom of Speech Comedy Series and is one of the top comedians working today. He has been providing shows for the military since 1992 and is a Veteran performer for USO and Comics On Duty. Comedy shows are the easiest to provide as we can do a huge concert or a small venue with a short set up time. We specialize in using the top headlining comedians for our shows unlike some of the other independent bookers that use amateurs and sell it as a professional show.
We've done shows on flatbeds, in tents, theatres, prisons, aircraft hangers, launch pads and more. The point is to get the best shows to the troops and bring a smile and laugh to their face and let them know how much we support them and sometimes, that's the difference...having hope and knowing that someone cares. Barnhart is also an accomplished actor, writer and director with numerous television and film credits. He can be heard regularly on Bob and Tom, XM and Sirius Satellite Radio.
For more information, please check out Don Barnhart Entertainment at www.donbarnhart.com