Celebrity couple hits home run with community
November 30, 2011
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg community members received
an early Thanksgiving treat when major league baseball player Nick Swisher and his actress wife JoAnna García Swisher visited Patton Barracks in Heidelberg Nov. 22.
The couple was invited by the USO and the Honorable Joseph W. Westphal, the Under Secretary of the Army, to visit overseas troops and families during the Thanksgiving holidays. The visit was part of Westphal's intent to recognize the service and sacrifices of Soldiers, families and civilian
The New York Yankees outfielder and the actress perhaps best known for the long-running sitcom "Reba," will celebrate their first wedding anniversary Dec. 11. They decided to make the
tour into their belated honeymoon.
"It's just so much better to be here in person, to say thank you," Nick said to fan Sgt. Anthony
Tewksbury from the 529th Military Police.
The tour group flew to Ramstein Air Base Nov. 22 and were met by Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, the U.S. Army Europe commander, who accompanied them to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the USO Warrior Center and the Fisher House in Landstuhl.
After visiting wounded warriors, the group traveled to Heidelberg. While Westphal met with USAREUR senior leaders, the Swishers signed autographs and met fans at the dining facility on
Campbell Barracks and the Warrior Zone on Patton Barracks.
"It's such an honor to be here, man," Nick remarked as he posed with a Yankees-clad
USO tour producer Jeremy Wilcox said the whirlwind tour, officially called the Thanksgiving Holiday Troop Visit, included at least six stops in Afghanistan and a final visit in Belgium.
"We're moving and shaking. We don't have time for jet lag; we simply don't," Joanna said to a fan, smiling.
Wilcox provided glossy photographs to more than 100 excited fans, many of whom came dressed in Yankees jerseys and ball caps. Some also carried memorabilia ranging from newspaper articles to baseballs, excitedly waiting their turn for a warm greeting and photograph with the celebrity couple.
Capt. Eric Haas, an intelligence offi cer with the 24th Military Intelligence Battalion, brought two mementos for the Swishers to sign: a baseball bat and a baseball originally signed by Hank
Bauer. Bauer, a World War II Marine Corps veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star twice each, played on seven World-Series winning Yankee teams and still holds the World Series record for the longest hitting streak. Haas said Joanna mentioned this was the fi rst
baseball bat she'd been asked to sign.
The pair also inscribed it with their wedding anniversary date and posed for a photo.
Other fans included Gaby and Theresa Tersigni, a mother-daughter pair from New York, Spc. Devin Stout, a cannon crew member assigned to Alpha Company, Warrior Transition Unit and Randy Ewart, a civilian employee at the Heidelberg Golf Club.
Ewart, who had a giant baseball in tow, served as an umpire in the 2009 Little League Europe, Middle East, Africa Region world series.
With him were his son Leroy, a player in the German Bundesliga, and daughter Britney, who was dressed in a pink Yankees sweatshirt.
Not everyone was a baseball fan, though. Sgt. Marie Johnson, a supply specialist with the Army Band, was excited to meet Joanna -- or "Jo," as she warmly asked a fan to call her.
"I love her. She was awesome as Cheyenne on 'Reba,' and I've seen her interviews on TV. I'm really excited to meet her," she said.
After about 90 minutes at the Warrior Zone, and speaking privately to each fan, the couple with the unwavering smiles packed up to get ready for their flight to Afghanistan.
"Thanks so much for being there for us," Jo said.