- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gen. Douglas MacArthur got it wrong when he said old soldiers just fade away.

Judging by the number of ramrod-straight backs on civvies-clad gentlemen during the singing of the national anthem at the annual SemperComm Gala at the Marriott Crystal Gateway on Thursday, an esprit de corps remains regardless of the color of one’s suit.

“We want to make sure that no soldier has to stand alone,” said gala Chairwoman Linda LaRoche of SemperComm’s efforts to provide cell phones, Internet access and other communications amenities to those serving in the U.S. armed forces in remote areas around the globe.

The event brought together current and former military personnel, as well as business and political leaders intent on supporting the troops on the ground.

Actress Karri Turner, best known for her portrayal of Lt. Harriet Sims in television’s “JAG,” emceed the evening with a blend of humility and humor that struck just the right tone with the audience, as did National Endowment for the Arts chairman Dana Gioia’s mentioning that the proceedings had special meaning for him because his kid sister is stationed in Afghanistan.

As headliners and others kept noting, the real stars of the evening were those serving in the military, many in far away places.

“It’s hard to represent what a difference the ability to communicate from a remote location can make,” said businessman Peter Scalone. “It’s hard to put a value on that.” Special awards were given to four service personnel, including Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Kevin Conboy, who ensured the frequent arrival of CARE packages and other items for his troops in Iraq.

Country music star Chely Wright, whose brother Chris is on active duty with the Marines, provided the evening’s musical entertainment.

Singing her hit single, “The Bumper of My SUV,” proved especially poignant. Sung slowly with just the accompaniment of a single guitar, the story of Miss Wright’s USMC bumper sticker and the obscene gesture it provoked, brought the audience to its feet, and prompted one man, cane in hand, to make his way to the nearest table of uniformed personnel for a quick thank you and handshakes all around.

“I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, I’m an American,” Miss Wright said. “These people have done a lot of courageous things. They bought a lot of freedom for us. Of course we should support them.”

— Lisa Rauschart

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