AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq. --
For decades Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen have been entertained in combat zones by traveling comedians, singers, actors, dancers and various other entertainers. Organizations like the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center, and the Base Command Group here keep this tradition going by organizing performances across the Iraqi desert.
The ‘Purrfect Angelz,’ a performance entertainment group from Los Angeles, met with and performed for service members here Nov. 18.
Members of the performance group come from various backgrounds such as professional cheerleading, competitive dance, modeling, singing, and aerial acrobatics.
“I started the group about six years ago as an outlet for beautiful, talented girls who still had the desire to perform but may not have had the same opportunities in such a competitive market,” explained Lisa Ligon, the founder and director of the Los Angeles-based team.
Six of the group’s 46 members traveled around the base from unit to unit greeting and thanking service members for their sacrifice to our nation. Following the troop visits, the Angelz performed at the base theater for the service members.
Many of the service members said they found the performance both entertaining and rewarding.
“I think it’s awesome that the group wanted to come and perform for us,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Mary L. Paz, a religious program specialist with Marine Expeditionary Force Religious 713, in support of Regimental Combat Team 2. “The whole point of these performances is awesome, like little treats for us. We take care of the country, and in turn they take care of us.”
For some service members, the thought behind the performance was worth just as much as the entertainment value.
“My father still remembers a show from World War II, Lena Horne. To this day, he remembers it and how much it meant to him. And he is still grateful for it,” said Navy Cmdr. Harry Griffith, RCT-2 chaplain. “I personally didn’t go, but it isn’t about that. These ladies came because they wanted to support their troops, and their performance was the only way they knew how to do that. They gave what they felt they had to give.”
“It’s important to us to do stuff like this because when you can take your talent and use it to thank someone who gives and gives day in and day out, it’s the best use you could put it to,” said Ligon, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and swimsuit calendar cover girl.
For other members of the group, showing their talent to the service members was personally rewarding.
“Most of us have been here several times, and we all agree military audiences are the best audiences to perform for. Just to see the gratitude on their face, its extremely rewarding and it means a lot to us to be able to do this,” said Dani Armstrong, a third generation military performer. “My mom performed in Korea, and my grandma in Vietnam, it truly is an honor to carry on this type of tradition.”
This was the Angelz’ fifth military tour, they have performed several times in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. During their two-week visit, the girls say they plan on making 19 stops throughout the Thanksgiving Holiday, and hope to bring a piece of home to every service member they meet.
“We consider this an honor, and hope we can make everyone who sees our show forget where they are, even if it’s just for an hour. We are here to lift people’s spirits and morale, and if I can put a smile on one soldiers’ face, then I’m happy,” said Tanea Brooks, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and swimsuit calendar cover girl.
“It was a morale booster,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Jamila M. Branch, the MWR officer for the BCG. “There is a different culture out here and sometimes it is easy to forget that things are still going on back home and that this is not the norm. Having the Purrfect Angelz out here, I think was a reminder for everyone that things will not always be as they are now.”
The girls’ said their biggest fear is that people will think their show is for male-only audiences, something they constantly strive to correct.
“People tend to think it’s a much sexier show than it really is,” explained Ligon, “But in reality, it’s fit for both men and women. It’s a high performance, high energy show designed to entertain everyone. We make sure to keep it conservative and patriotic, and we think it’s very important to support the women heroes just as much as the men.”
Many of the service members who attended the show said they greatly appreciated the girls’ effort, and were pleasantly surprised by some of the performances.
“The range of entertainment was nice,” said Paz, a Chicago native. “I didn’t expect the singing and stuff, it was very nice. We were able to relax, be entertained, and have the focus on the stage instead of ourselves.”
In addition to singing and dancing, the troupe also features aerial artists, fire twirlers and acrobats, and has performed at various venues such as: the X-games, Country Music Television Awards, casinos, car shows, bike rallies and numerous country music videos.
The girls said they love performing, but the highlight is usually their biannual military tours.
“I’m a wannabe Laura Croft, kick-butt, kinda girl, but you all, especially the women, are truly the real thing,” said Brooks during the show. “You will never know how much you mean to the people back home, but hopefully we can show you!”
For more information on MWR performances, contact your base MWR officer. For more information on the Purrfect Angelz, go to www.purrfectangelz.com