Skip to comments.USO - M. Wallace (Nascar driver), other celebs visit troops abroad
Posted on 12/16/2003 10:36:21 AM PST by NormsRevenge
After a busy race season, Mike Wallace isn't settling down just yet. This week, the driver embarked on a United Service Organizations (USO)-sponsored sojourn in support of United States service people abroad.
Wallace left Sunday on a six-day, five-country tour. He joins comedian Robin Williams, New York Yankees baseball player Jason Giambi, professional wrestler Kurt Angle and model Leeann Tweeden on the trip.
"It's a pretty way cool trip, considering the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General (Richard) Myers is hosting it," Wallace said. "It's a pretty big honor to be asked to go and it's a real exciting trip."
Wallace's trip had no connection to a similar jaunt fellow NASCAR driver Geoffrey Bodine is making later this month to the Middle East.
Considering the level of participation, the details of Wallace's trip, including its existence, was kept pretty quiet.
The itinerary includes stops in two of the Middle East's hot spots, Iraq and Afghanistan. Though Wallace will pass through these risky areas, his wife, Carla, is keeping a positive outlook on the trip.
"How could you pass up 17 hours in a plane with Robin Williams?" Mrs. Wallace said. "This is something Mike loves to do and considering who is going on this trip, I am not overly concerned.
"It's a great opportunity (and) I know they'll take care of him."
Wallace was part of a similar mission a year ago that hit several European stops, but it had a decidedly racing flavor.
This year, Wallace -- who drove a handful of races this season in the MB2 Motorsports Pontiac that was sponsored by the U.S. Army -- was handpicked for the trip.
"I was going to go with a group connected with the ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves)," Wallace said, "but then I got contacted by an associate I had in the USO that told me, 'I've seen you around soldiers before and interacting with them and you're great at it -- will you do this trip?'"
"Mike was ecstatic when they called and asked about the trip," Carla Wallace said. "To think that they would think enough of him to represent the (motorsports) group and to join such an elite group, he didn't give (going) a second thought."
Bernie Rone, the USO's director of celebrity tours, said he couldn't emphasize enough the importance of the group's mission.
"From my perspective this tour is even more important than they typically are, considering what has just happened over here," Rone said Monday. "On the holidays especially, when these men and women are over here putting their lives on the line so that we can sit here and openly have this discussion, well, with all that's going on in peoples' lives sometimes they forget what our service people are doing for all of us.
"That's why we consider this a particularly critical mission and why it's such a big deal that the chairman of the joint chiefs, as well as these other celebrities take the time to come over and give them their thanks."
Wallace said that because of security concerns a lot of details were vague, but the group planned 10 stops in five countries this week.
He said he had souvenirs and memorabilia from GEICO Insurance, his Busch Series sponsor, as well as bundles provided by NASCAR and AT&T prepaid phone cards for the service people.
"Along with Iraq and Afghanistan we're going to be hitting Saudi Arabia and Belgium on Chairman Myers' holiday goodwill tour," Wallace said. "It's a USO-based trip and I'm sure Robin will finish it up wherever we go.
"We made a trip that was very similar last year, to Germany, Italy, Bosnia and Spain," Wallace said. "I was extremely pleased and honored to be invited to go on this trip, which I think will be a lot of fun despite being an awful lot of flying.
"I've been told that to go and visit these (service) kids will be a life-altering experience. Don't forget that when a lot of them signed up there was no real war -- they probably thought they'd be hanging out somewhere.
"Let's not have any misconceptions here -- we're going to a war zone, although we're going with the utmost security and I'm comfortable with that.
"But this is important and we're just trying to pass on our thanks to the soldiers all over the world, because next month when we're down in Daytona testing our racecars the only way we can do that is because of what these kids are doing to make all of us safe."
Wallace is expected to be home by next weekend.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- "Goooood morning Bagh-dad!" With those words - a play on his 1987 movie "Good Morning Vietnam" - Robin Williams took the outdoor stage at Baghdad International Airport on Tuesday and delivered a barrage of raunchy comedy.
Williams was the lead performer in a U.S. military show that also featured actress Shannon Tweed, wrestler Curt Angle and stock car driver Mike Wallace. The show kicked off a tour of U.S. bases in Iraq with performances at the main airport in Baghdad.
Perched on a flatbed trailer in a rakishly tilted stocking cap and camouflage jacket, Williams surveyed the crowd of 200 American and Australian soldiers, and told them their garb would be fashionable on the streets of Los Angeles.
"I'm looking at a group of heavily armed people here," Williams joked with the soldiers, most of them wearing helmets and body armor. "I'm telling myself, 'If you're not funny, it's a problem.'"