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Cheerleaders perform for Marines in Iraq

19 Jul 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Marines aren’t patient for much, but a squad of professional cheerleaders had them lined up here.

The National Football League’s Denver Bronco cheerleaders dropped in on Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, recently.

“Sometimes people back home forget that there are real people out here fighting for us,” said Keela R. Harris, of Littleton, Colo., and one of the Denver cheerleaders who spent most of her time chatting with the Marines.

The twelve women belong to a group of 34 professional entertainers who made a name for themselves dancing on the sidelines at national sporting events throughout the country.

But dancing at American games supporting their team wasn’t enough for the pom-pom sporting group.  They wanted to take a tour of Iraq and visit the troops.

“When we found out that we were going to get a chance to come over here, we were fighting for the spots because not all of us could go,” said Sara E. Lockhart, a 23-year-old cheerleader from Littleton, Colo. “All of the girls wanted to come and we got lucky to be chosen.”

Several Marine helicopters landed here with the dancers early Wednesday.  They immediately headed for the camp’s mess hall where they enjoyed lunch with the Marines.

“They were all very interested in what and how we were doing,” said Lance Cpl. Ronald L. Mixon, an administrative clerk. “It wasn’t like they stopped to fill a check in a box and were forced to do it.  They truly cared.”

Mixon also enjoyed the fact he was able to talk with someone other than his fellow tired, sweaty Marines.

“It was so nice to be able to talk with these women from the states,” said Mixon, from Bangor, Maine.  “I felt like I was back home for a few hours and it helped remind me of why we are here – to fight for the freedoms we all share.”

After the ladies got a taste of Marine chow in Iraq, they sat and talked with hundreds as they signed posters and photos.

“You always hear about the bad things happening in Iraq.  We try to talk about the good things,” Harris said. “Talking to the Marines here just reminds you of how courageous these guys are. They all volunteered to serve for this war, fighting to protect people like us.”

The ladies continued their tour visiting Marines spread throughout the camp here, while stopping for photos and visiting the battalion’s wall dedicated to fallen brothers.

“It’s amazing to see. So many of them are young and normal people just like me, said 20-year-old Harris.  “To imagine what they gave up for freedom, it’s a reality check you know.”

Smiles and laughter filled the air surrounding Marines, many whom were covered in sweat and dirty uniforms from working in the day’s heat. But the cheerleaders didn’t care.  They made it a point to give them their utmost attention and share stories from home.

“Every moment has been important,” Harris said.  “So many faces to put with my freedom and I now have a greater appreciation for all the blood, sweat and tears that have been spent here.”

The Marines agreed.  A long plane ride, several lost hours of sleep and putting their lives in harms way was a notable and much appreciated gesture by the cheerleaders.

“Seeing twelve beautiful women get off the helicopters was as beautiful as the sunsets back home,” Mixon said.

The twelve ladies boarded Marine helicopters headed to visit with more troops across Iraq during their six-day tour of the country.

“They are our heroes,” Lockhart said. “That’s all there is to it.”