… MY BIG FAT USO TRIP
This past weekend I travelled across the country to visit the troops and their families in Washington D.C. as a representative of the USO! It’s a humbling experience to be able to do a little something for our men and women in uniform as I have a great appreciation for their dedication and service to our country. This last trip was my third visit back east. The first time, I went by myself…
…the second time was with VO actress Candi Milo…
…and for this trip, I had the good fortune of going with world famous, ultra-talented, all-around good-guy voice over actor, Rob Paulsen!
Many of you may know him as the voice of Yakko Warner on “Animaniacs” or Pinky on “Pinky And The Brain” or Raphael on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” while others may know him as Larry Falkwell in “Stewardess School” or the cameraman in “Body Double.” Regardless, he’s a delight to be around and he made the trip extra special with his wacky brand of improv and voice work.
And for those of you who don’t know about the USO, they are a private organization dating back to 1941 dedicated to lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families. That being said, it was a two way street as I couldn’t help but be lifted up myself meeting our soldiers (insert “God Bless The USA” here). I know that sentiment has the makings of a Bette Midler song (in a good way), but it’s the truth! So if you ever get the chance to be involved with the USO, do it. If anything, it reminds you of the sacrifice that these young men and women have given to serve and protect our country.
One of my favorite moments came during our final stop at Fort Myer to visit members of the honor guard. When we got to the USO center, we came upon an unsuspecting soldier watching “Regular Show” on their big screen TV. He told us later that he thought we were a just a couple of dudes who wanted to watch cartoons with him. But once Rob opened his mouth as Pinky, it was like his tough guy exterior melted and he was transformed back into a little kid eating cereal in front of the TV. From there, a good number of soldiers gathered around us and hung out while I drew pictures of Johnny Bravo and Rob called their friends and families as Pinky.
One soldier even ran back to his room because he just so happened to have a Pinky Christmas Stocking which he got Rob to sign! Talk about a serendipitous moment! At one point, two girls came by and said, “We were going to go bowling next door until we heard that you guys were here. This is way better than bowling!”
I love that we were “way better than bowling.”
During our visit, we had the privilege of dropping by several military institutions including Fort Belvoir, Fort Meade, Indain Head, and Joint Base Anacostia Bolling where we took part in Deployed Family Fun Day.
The Cartoon Network donated several boxes of stuff for us to give away so that families could walk away with, not only a Johnny Bravo drawing and an autographed photo of Rob, but also Cartoon Network silly bands, bracelets, comic books, tattoos, and posters! Some of the lucky ones had a recording device handy so they were able to score a personalized message from Pinky (which will probably be playing at family gatherings for years).
Another stop on our tour was a visit to Quantico, Virginia. Home to the Marine One fleet.
Above, is a picture of me, Rob, and our gracious host at Quantico, Sgt. Jeffrey Bowers. Besides showing us around, he set up a demonstration in their training facilities where three soldiers showed us how to take down an attacker using their martial arts skills. At first, it was all very formal and professional with these stone cold soldiers ready to take us out with a napkin if we got out of line. But the minute they found out we made cartoons, they were able to let down their defenses and play.
“Man, I’m pretty! Hyah!”
There were a lot of great people who came out to see us and make us feel right at home. People like Marta who made us homemade soup at Fort Belvoir and Queen who dished out a heaping helping of lovin’ sass at the PX in Fort Meade. There was also little Olivia from Indian Head who drew a Johnny Bravo picture for me and a Pinky and the Brain drawing for Rob. I just want to say “Thank you!” to them, and all the military families who took the time out of their schedules to visit with us. A big thank you to Emily Jane (below in the first picture) and Dawn Fincham (second from left in the second picture) who drove us two knuckleheads to the farthest corners of Virginia and Maryland.
Braving tornado warnings and two guys who wouldn’t shut up, these two treated us like dirt (well, Dawn anyways) and we loved it!
On our final day of the trip, we had a few hours to spare before we had to leave for the airport. So, while Rob took a meeting, I decided to hop on the Metro and head over to the White House for a Starbucks with Mr. Obama…
“Hello? Mr. Obama? It’s me. Van Partible. I brought you a chai tea latte, no water, no foam… extra hot… except I accidentally drank it. I hope you don’t mind. I got thirsty on the walk over. Hello…?”
…but apparently he was busy. Something about a campaign trail or something. I don’t know. I guess I should’ve called first instead of just showing up at the door. Ah well. There’s always next time…