Straight From the Hart II
Hey, WWE fans. I’m back again. Thursday night we decided to take in the sites of Kuwait City before starting our base tours. Ashley was still under the weather, so Maria, Ron Simmons, Gary Davis, Henry Dirocco and I, with Ryan and Richard as our tour guides, went to a part of the city that could easily pass for 54th Street in the Big Apple.
While Maria went one way, with Ryan, Gary and Henry, escorted by a Kuwaiti friend of Ryan’s, the old school team of Ron, Richard and myself took our own path. We found a store that sold DVD’s. As we were looking through the store catalogue, we ran across the brand new release of “See No Evil” starring Kane, which was kind of odd because the DVD has not yet been released officially. But for the asking price of $3.50, I thought I would buy it for Vince because he was an executive producer of the movie and it’s the first DVD from WWE Films. Ron purchased a DVD of the “Sopranos.”
About two-and-a-half hours later we all finally met up. Maria, as the only woman in Kuwait City wearing shorts (as you know, most Kuwaiti women are covered from head to toe in burquas), got plenty of attention from the Kuwaiti men and women on the street. All it took was following the buzz of the men in the crowd to find her. Ron also drew his fair share of attention as many of the shopkeepers recognized him as Faarooq and welcomed him warmly as one of their own.
We finally got back to the hotel to get to bed early for a 7:15 a.m. departure time on Friday to visit our first base. As you guessed it, I was the first one in the lobby at five minutes to 6, so I could start my day with the hotel’s Jimmy Hart Southern Breakfast Special. You guessed it, pork n beans and French fries. Ron joined me for breakfast and I asked him how he enjoyed his new DVD. He told me he got upstairs last night, took a shower, pulled the covers back on the bed, got two big, soft pillows to put behind his head, got the bowl of grapes, bananas and apples next to him, got a big bottle of water, and put his brand new DVD into his DVD player. And guest what came on the screen; it said, “This DVD will not work in this machine.” (Sucker!) That leaves me to believe Vince may have some trouble playing this DVD version of “See No Evil.” I told Gary that this was something he could give to Vince to get in good with the boss; no need to mention my name.
The first base was Navistar, home to the 2nd Battalion 123rd Field Artillery on the Iraqi border. These boys and girls, most of whom hail from Illinois and Wisconsin, provide support to supply convoys coming to and from Iraq. In addition to our U.S. forces, the camp hosts members of the Coalition Forces, most notably Britain, Italian and Danish troops. The camp rolled out the red carpet for the WWE. After a briefing from Camp Commander Lieutenant Colonel Craig Hess, we met with troops on base at several different locations, capped off by a major autograph and photo session with hundreds of troops in the camp’s Rec Hall that lasted more than three hours. Maria, Ashley and Ron were a big hit with the troops. You would not believe the WWE magazines that we all had to sign, and the special magazine pin-up posters of Ashley and Maria.
On the way to Navistar, driving along the major highway from Kuwait City, we saw several bombed out buildings, remnants from the first Gulf War and a measure of how close Saddam Hussein’s troops came to Kuwait City. Our trip to the next base, Camp Buehring, was even more adventurous. To get to Camp Buehring, which is about 10 miles form the Iraqi border, we took the old Iraqi tank trail from the first Gulf War. It was easier off the trail than on because of numerous potholes. By this time, the temperature had reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit. We finally lurched our way on to the base. Even thought Kuwait is peaceful, we had an armed security detail with us at all times while on base.
We were welcomed by Lieutenant Colonel Clinton Pendergast, Commander, Base Support Battalion-North, and his team, who provided us with a thorough history of the camp. They also presented us with some framed Certificates of Appreciation for WWE and each of us for visiting the camp. Indeed, Ron and Gary, in their first AFE visit to Kuwait in 2003, had visited this same camp when it was known as Camp New York, which at the time was essentially a tent camp. Things have changed markedly since then, and the camp now is much larger, has better facilities and boasts the largest gym in the Middle East. Good thing, as the camp is home to more than 30,000 of our troops from the Army, Navy and Marines.
Our major event was right in the camp’s gym—a tremendous, modern facility with all types of treadmills, weight machines and lifting stations. As I came through the door with the megaphone, introducing Ron, Maria and Ashley, we received a heart-warming reception. To talk to the kids who just came over here, the ones that are ready to serve in Iraq, and the ones getting ready to return home, the one thing that bound them together other than the war was their passion and knowledge of the past and present of the WWE. Ashley met one young man who said he voted for her more than 50,000 times during the Diva Search competition. Once I heard that, I yelled out, “Maybe we need a recount!” I noted that she gave him an extra special hug.
Maria was busy collecting patches. I think she got one from every serviceman in the building and proudly displayed them on her shirt. Ron’s main concern, other than greeting his many fans, was when we were going to get our next meal.
After another long autograph and photo session, we received a special invitation from Violet Kelly-Schmutz, known around these parts as “Big Mama,” to visit the camp Post Office, which she runs. I know why they call her Big Mama, because I bet when she got on the scales, they lit up and said, “One person at a time, please!” Big Mama and her postal team are a big part of morale on the base. They process more than three tons of mail each month for our troops. All of you in the U.S., keep up the good work and keep those cards and packages coming. You don’t realize how much our men and women in the military appreciate receiving a piece of home.
When the girls and Henry took a break, Ron, Gary, Ryan and myself went to the base Fire Hall, known here as the Udairi Fire Department (the base was also once known as Camp Udairi). We had a chance to ride in a pump truck that dispenses more than 3,000 gallons of water in a few minutes. These guys are ready to roll at a moment’s notice. They are private contractors like a lot of folks on the base, who LTC Pendergast said are crucial to maintaining smooth operations.
Gary noted that we needed to get on our way before sundown so we could negotiate the tank trails, which become even more treacherous to drive on in the dark. Though we faced no danger here, driving in twilight through the sand and tank trails gave us a taste of how difficult our troops must have it in Iraq as they drive, and try to identify and avoid IEDs along the roads. It’s serious business, and it made us realize once again how lucky we are to live in the good ole’ U.S.A.
I’ll have more from Kuwait on Monday. Enjoy the weekend, and remember, never trust a midget.
Read: Straight from the Hart I