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WWE welcomes troops to Raw

WWE welcomed troops and their families into the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., for a banquet before Raw Monday night.

The event was hosted by WWE legend Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart, and was jam-packed into the Coaches Club, a restaurant in the arena. Hart was keeping the spirits of the troops and their families high as they anticipated meeting WWE Superstars.

Sgt. Jesus Diaz, liaison of the United States Marine Corp, was posing for pictures with Hart, alongside the children of his Staff Sgt., who could not be in the arena due to therapy he is undergoing for injuries sustained while in the line of duty. 

"If my sergeant could be here he would, but I offered to bring his children," Diaz said. "Events like this help boost morale, because it helps clear our minds and gets us out of that hospital environment," he continued. "The military guys can relate to WWE. Both groups are out there doing their jobs, and both have an amazing sense of camaraderie."

In the center of the room was Corporal Pat Murray, who was working hard on his handmade sign for tonight's Raw. His sign read ‘Iron Sheik Sucks' and he grinned widely as he finished the sign. He served almost seven months in Iraq, and two weeks before returning home, lost his leg when an IED exploded under his vehicle. According to Murray, WWE is a great source of escape for all servicemen and women.

"It is awesome that WWE takes so much pride in doing this, taking the time to go somewhere that can be very uncomfortable," Diaz said. "For the past five years, I have looked forward to the Tribute to the Troops shows, and next Monday will be especially important as it falls on Christmas. As for tonight, I plan on enjoying my first WWE event."

Jimmy Hart introduced his first guest, another WWE legend, Jim Duggan. When Hacksaw entered, the room exploded into thunderous cheers of "U-S-A" and "Ho." Duggan signed autographs and posed for pictures with those in attendance.

To finish the event, Jimmy Hart invited all the children to move to the front of the room to see Santa Claus, who had come to pay his respects to the troops and their families.

Later in the night, Specialist Sarena Shannon, E-4 who was stationed as an aviation refueler in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the initial entry, was able to walk around backstage and meet some of WWE's Superstars, including Val Venis and Shelton Benjamin.

"Being here tonight is the best therapy. A lot of soldiers are happy to be out of the hospital after numerous appointments, especially around the holidays."

Shannon became very emotional when speaking about the pride the soldiers have in knowing that WWE and Americans support the troops.

"They treat us like we are the stars, when they are the celebrities, and it is amazing to know we are appreciated that much here at home. It's just an honor," Shannon explained. "For WWE to go to Iraq and let us know that the people of America are behind us all the way is a great feeling."

Specialist Sarena Shannon's husband remains in Iraq, where there are three television stations to watch, one being USA Network. She said that her husband will be watching tonight, something him and I can share together."

Specialist Shannon's message to WWE and its fans was "thank you for your continued support throughout everything."

Her message to her husband in Iraq was much more personal, "six years strong," she said as she wiped away a tear.

Be sure to tune in Christmas night, 9/8 CT on the USA Network when WWE salutes all our servicemen and servicewomen with "WWE Tribute to the Troops Christmas From Baghdad."

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