Cher Storms Capitol Hill to Battle for Better Army Helmets
Entertainer to Urge Lawmakers for Upgraded Protective Gear
By BUCK WOLF
June 13, 2006 — - Cher can't turn back time, but she can go to Washington to plea for better helmet lining for U.S. troops in Iraq.
The 60-year-old Oscar-winning entertainer will appear Thursday before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces with Dr Bob Meaders, the founder of Operation Helmet, a nonprofit group that supplies helmet upgrade kits.
Cher has always been outspoken, though not especially active in politics. But she's taken to heart the plight of soldiers abroad. In recent weeks, she has donated $131,000 to Operation Helmet. And over Memorial Day weekend she made a surprise call to C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" that left TV viewers totally "Moonstruck."
The "Believe" singer didn't even identify herself to host Steve Scully when she launched into a plea for better military protective gear.
"Hello? This is Malibu, Calif., I'm going to try to be really calm while I'm talking about this. … " Cher told Scully.
"Is this Cher?" he asked, after recognizing her world-famous voice.
"Yeah," she said. "I know that I am an entertainer and from Hollywood and should have no conscience, but I am an American and I just cannot bear these people for another moment."
'I Thought She Was Joking'
Meaders recalls how Cher jumped into the cause six weeks ago and has been a big help ever since. "I was sitting on my back porch seven weeks ago and I got a call, and this woman said, 'We'd like to send you $25,000. …' I thought she was joking."
Cher soon sent an additional $106,000 to help Operation Helmet address a backlog of 1,500 requests for upgrade kits.
Over the past two years, the organization has provided more than 8,000 kits free of charge to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. The kits range in price from $75 to $100 and consist of shock-absorbing pads and an improved strapping system, which is said to keep troops safer and more comfortable.
In total, Cher's donations represent about one-sixth of the $800,000 that Operation Helmet has raised. The Texas doctor and the showbiz legend have become friendly, and she was quick to oblige his latest request for help.
"I'd never done anything like speak before Congress," said Meaders. So Cher said, 'Do you want me to come and hold your hand?' So I said, 'Absolutely.'"
Meaders, 71, is a retired Navy doctor and veteran of the Vietnam War. His grandson is a Marine now serving in Iraq, near the Syrian border. He began collecting money for the helmet upgrades when his grandson was in basic training.
"We only send helmets to those who request them, and what we send represents a drop in the bucket," Meaders said. "But it's a start, and it makes a big difference."