WWE superstars and divas will tell you the most important show they do all year isn’t WrestleMania.
It’s “Tribute to the Troops.”
For more than a decade WWE has visited military bases and installations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States to entertain the brave men and women in uniform. They also use their visit as an opportunity to extend their appreciation to the troops, who sacrifice so much for their country.
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin answered questions from the media leading to the 12th annual WWE holiday special “Tribute to the Troops,” which will air on USA Network 8-10 p.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 17 during “WWE Week.” The show will then re-air as a one-hour special 8 p.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 27 on NBC.
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“For me personally, it’s one of my favorite specials that WWE does,” Mizanin said. “It’s incredible to be a part of it. I’ve been doing this for six years now…My first year actually being part of ‘Tribute to the Troops,’ I actually got to go over to Iraq and witness what our soldiers go through on a day-to-day basis. We can watch the news all we want and how they portray what a war is like and what is going on, but until you actually go over there and see the life a solder lives. You have a whole new appreciation for the life they live.
“I went to Iraq. It was like the desert. There was nothing there. In some of the camps, they don’t even have running water. So these guys would be in these camps for six months to a year. They would have to go number 1 in these tubes and number 2 in these Wag bags. They would go and go in the field and light it on fire. It was just incredible.
“The only thing to do over there was work, eat and if they had a gym, work out. If they had internet, if it was on, they could use that. They really couldn’t talk to their families. They are secluded and all they really see is soldiers in uniforms. So to bring WWE out there in our normal clothes is just refreshing. It puts something different in their normal, everyday routine. It kind of boosts morale, most soldiers would tell us after we leave. It would give them a new sensation and feeling of joy. It’s the little things you can do for them for what they do for us.”
This year the annual Tribute to the Troops show occurs from Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga. Mizanin always leaves with memories from his experiences participating in the “Tribute to the Troops.”
“I remember being over there [in Iraq] and talking to an 18-year-old kid,” he said. “I asked him, ‘What do you do?” He said, ‘I drive the armored vehicle.’ So he goes and shows me the armored vehicle. He takes me around it. I saw this orange pole standing out in front, which seemed out of place to me.
“I go, ‘What’s the orange pole for?’ He goes, ‘It blows up the landmines before it blows us up.’ I go, ‘Oh my God. Have you ever had that happen?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, it just happened yesterday.’ I thought this can’t be the conversation we are having right now. It can’t be normal. It was just such a normal conversation. It was so matter-of-fact. It was like no big deal. No, that’s not normal…That’s scary. These guys are the true, real-life action heroes and they are over there. So it’s the little things we can do to give back to our United States Armed Forces and our military. It’s truly incredible what they go through on a day-to-day basis.”
Mizanin also recalled another instance that put everything WWE does United States military into perspective.
“I remember signing an autograph and a soldier gave me a picture of me and a baby,” Mizanin said. “I go, ‘What’s this?’ He goes, ‘You met my son before I did’…It blew me away and gave me chills to hear that. They are so proud, respectful and happy to do what they’re doing. I just have the utmost respect for the United States Armed Forces and what they do…Being at Fort Benning this year was truly an honor and so much fun. Some of the soldiers are being deployed the next day. So this may be the last time they can spend time with their friends and families for a very long time. Hopefully, we can give them a memory that will last a lifetime with their friends and family”
Mizanin is the star of the movie “The Marine 3: Homefront” and the upcoming follow-up “The Marine 4: Moving Target.” From the beginning, he never took the role lightly. He didn’t care what movie critics said. He only cares about what those in the United States Marine Corps and serving thought.
“It’s a tremendous amount of pressure to go into a movie and call yourself a marine, especially when you know the sacrifices every marine goes through on a day-to-day basis,” Mizanin said. “So when I went to do this movie I said, ‘I want a marine there to show me how to clear a room, how to hold a gun. I wanted to do everything a marine does. Honestly, I’m not going to war. I’m filming a movie. These guys are the true heroes…So from the feedback I’ve gotten, most people really enjoyed the movie. That’s enough for me.”
Mizanin says no matter whether it’s Iraq or Bahrain or Fort Hood or Fort Benning, each location carries a unique vibe.
“Uniformed soldiers with their friends and family are an amazing sigh,” he said. “It always gives me a newfound appreciation of what we’re doing. Whether their soldiers are booing me or cheering me, it doesn’t really matter. WWE always likes to give them the show they see on Monday Night Raw and that they see on Friday Night SmackDown, but also make it extra special. We bring all our superstars and divas, but we bring Florida Georgia Line [this time] to perform for them. There are bunch of celebrity messages from Angelina Jolie to Eva Longoria to the Kardashians and many more. It’s a lot of fun. It’s really cool and very impactfull.”
- WWE’s “Tribute to the Troops” will air on USA Network 8-10 p.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 17 during “WWE Week.” The show will then re-air as a one-hour special 8 p.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 27 on NBC. CMA Vocal Duo of the Year winners Florida Georgia Line will join WWE superstars and divas to honor the United States Armed Forces.
NBCUniversal will also join WWE in saluting the troops with special messages from some of their networks’ biggest names such as “TODAY” anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales and Al Roker, Seth Meyers, The Kardashians, Andy Cohen, Giuliana Rancic, Katherine Heigl, Lester Holt, Padma Lakshmi, Mark Feuerstein, Debra Messing, Tom Brokaw, Rachel Maddow and Carson Daly, as well as “The Voice” coaches Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
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