BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- A former Marine performing in Southwest Asia with television star Drew Carey and three other comedians this week has a message for the troops fighting in the global war on terror: "Most of America gets it."
Dave Mordal, who appeared on the first and third seasons of the NBC program "Last Comic Standing," said one reason he wanted to do the comedy tour was to tell the troops that Americans support them and appreciate their service. Mordal served in the Marine Corps in the 1980s, and he said he was pleased that the tour involved performances at forward operating bases.
"I didn't realize we were going to fire bases, and then when you find out that they've had nobody go out that far for them, I think that speaks a lot," he said. "It really does tell them that we care. I could have been working at a club this week, but I wanted to come here, and I didn't come here to see sand."
Though he had insight into how the military operates from his own service, Mordal said what he's seen of military people and operations on the tour has reminded him how hard the job is and how hard everyone works at it.
"Even though I'm ex-military, you're watching it on television and think it's all cut-and-dried, 'These people are over here, and this is what they do; those people are over there, and this is what they do,'" he said. "But when you get out here, you realize it's so fluid, especially in these kinds of wars, where you don't have an actual enemy in a uniform and a line. That's hard to explain to people until they're here and they see how this is going on.
"You hear about mistakes," he said. "Well, yeah, if you've got something this big with so many people involved, there's going to be some trouble once in awhile."
Mordal said Carey's manager called him and asked if he wanted to join this tour, the first overseas entertainment tour co-sponsored by the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program and Armed Forces Entertainment. "I jumped at the chance," Mordal said. "I've been looking forward to this for three weeks. I hadn't done anything this year that I wanted to do."
The comedian said that while he was stationed with the Marines at Twentynine Palms, Calif., he trained in the same kind of desert conditions today's deployed servicemembers face, battling the heat and terrain while they performed their mission. "They have the same complaints we did," he said with a laugh. "But there's one big difference between then and now: When I didn't do my job right, I got yelled at. There's a lot more at stake here, and it's great to see that these people do realize ... the danger they're in."
Mordal said the biggest surprise on the tour for him is the troops' "amazingly high" morale. "I was very surprised at how high it is," he said, "especially when you watch the news at home and hear the opposite. Who's putting that stuff in there?"
Mordal said the servicemembers understand that the work they're doing will pay off in the long run. "These things take time," he said. "Our own country was just a small, struggling country, pretty much until the Industrial Revolution." He also noted that the U.S. Constitution wasn't ratified until 1789, 13 years after the colonies declared their independence.
"There's no quick fix over here," he said. "The troops know it takes time."