Lee Ann Womack is currently on a Stars for Stripes tour to visit troops in Italy and Germany. Stars for Stripes President/CEO Judy Seale is with Lee Ann as they head for the "Homefront Celebration" for US troops in Vicenza, Italy on June 14. Here's Judy's report for the first day of the trip:
Today I depart for Germany and Italy with Lee Ann Womack and her assistant, Courtney. We will be visiting the wounded at Landstuhl Medical Center and the Fisher House in Germany on Monday then flying to Venice on Tuesday where we meet Lee Ann's musicians and crew. On Wednesday, she will perform at a "Welcome Home Celebration" in Vicenza at Caserma Ederle (Camp Ederle) for the troops who have spent the past year deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This visit holds a special meaning for me. I had Chely Wright, Dave Price, and Joey Gilbert on tour in Afghanistan in September, 2005 and they performed for many of the troops who are now in Vicenza. The flight over was easy. No turbulence and the man sitting with me slept the entire trip. We had a brief problem with the video monitor but they were able to reset it pretty quickly. The speaker system was another matter. It was so loud that every time the flight attendant came on to make an announcement, everyone jumped!
Our escorts that USAREUR provides met us and whisked us through immigration, collected our bags and our van driver met us right outside customs. Too easy! The hotel was only 5 minutes away and they had our rooms ready for us - even though it was only 10 am. It is very expensive in Germany right now because the World Cup Soccer tournament is taking place. I wanted to stay at the Sheraton because it is connected to the airport. But the same room I paid $200 per night for in April is now $600 per night. Unbelievable. A man in the lobby had started talking to me and turns out he is a soldier on TDY from Camp Victory in Iraq. He saw Charlie Daniels perform at Camp Liberty when we were there in April!
It's supposed to be "wild" downtown today because of the World Cup. Our driver was kind enough to drive us into downtown Frankfurt and wait for us while we walked around shopping and sightseeing for a couple of hours.
I expected crowds downtown because of the World Cup Soccer, but nothing prepared me for what we saw. The streets were packed - and since tonight's game is with Iran, there were hundreds of Iranians walking around playing musical instruments and yelling. We decided to get off the streets and out of the crowds by taking a boat cruise down the Rhein. It was a 50 minute ride and really peaceful and pretty. EXCEPT... the loud speaker gave the "tourist" sites - first in German and then in English. The English version "skipped" every other word so we have no idea what was being said.
We got back to the hotel before 8 pm. Tomorrow we go to visit the wounded at Landstuhl. It should be a wonderful day for all of us. Lee Ann has asked a lot of questions about my tours to Iraq and has decided she wants to go back over to Iraq and take some other Texas performers with her to do a little "Texas Salute" type of tour. More history for you... Lee Ann and I were both on the first entertainment tour that was allowed to come into Iraq in June, 2003. I was with Chely Wright, who had been invited to participate on the tour by General Tommy Franks. I have been back into Iraq - from corner to corner - seven times since that first tour. We met so many wonderful people on that first tour who have become lifelong friends to us.
Signing off for tonight.
Judy Seale is President/CEO of Stars for Stripes, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality entertainment to internationally deployed U.S. military forces. Bringing together professionals from aviation, entertainment and the military, Stars For Stripes is improving the overseas tour experience for performers, sponsors, donors, and most importantly, for the dedicated men and women protecting our national interests.
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