Monday, September 29, 2008
The Sweethearts for Soldiers recently embarked on our second tour to boost the morale of our nation's troops serving over seas. We are all former NFL cheerleaders, from all over the country, with very strong military ties. Our first tour, last spring, was a hand shake tour to Iraq and Kuwait. It was very thrilling to be able to bring a show this time, and entertain the troops. The touring girls were; Bari Yonkers (Sweethearts' co-creator and director), Amy Toliver, Cheryl O'brien, Kimberly Newbern, and me (Brianne Beaty). We are retired Cardinal, Charger, and Jaguar, cheerleaders.
A handful of Sweethearts choreographed for the show and we all learned the material via DVDs. The first time we rehearsed as a group was in the Detroit airport on our 7 hour layover! After 30 hours of travel (including layovers and stop overs) we arrived at Doha International and were met by our security detail. They promptly took us to Camp As Saliyah and assigned us our lodging.
After a few hours of sleep, we wakened to rehearse on the giant stage in the MWR at 7am. The day followed with signings, briefings, and then show time! Most soldiers staying on As Saliyah are on their 4 day leave from either Afghanistan or Iraq and many have yet to have seen any entertainers on their tours. The 90 minute show consisted of dancing, singing, tumbling, baton, and many interactive games with the soldiers. And thanks to our fantastic giveaway sponsors (like Black Hawk, Wiley X, Mary Kay, Arbonne, Park Lane, etc). we were able to hand out awesome presents. We felt like Santa Claus.
The Sweethearts were set to depart that evening to Afghanistan, but due to safety reasons we never made it outside of Qatar. We did, however, perform 3 more shows. Our Friday night show was at Camp Al Udied, an Air Force base in Doha. The stage was outside in an ampi-theatre setting and around 1,000 soldiers were in attendance. With the daily temperature in Doha being around 120F, we knew performing outside would be challenging. But, we pulled it together with grace and respect for those that wear their military gear every day in that sort of weather.
It was very disappointing for us not to be able to complete our mission and perform for those serving in Afghanistan, However, it was a treat to be able to have significant time with the soldiers on As Saliyah and really have a chance to listen to their stories from the war zone. A highlight was having lunch and then bowling with a group of wounder soldiers. They were in such good spirits and so much fun to hang out with. We made many friends on this tour, friends for life.
The Sweethearts are so proud of our soldiers and we are so thankful for our new friends from this tour. Overall, I think The Sweethearts completed the mission of bringing light into as many soldiers' lives as we could!
For more information about the Sweethearts for Soldiers go to www.sweetheartsforsoldiers.com or www.myspace.com/sweethearts2008