Originally created 12/21/06

Skits urge soldiers to be safe during travels home



The Signal Corps Band's rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was cut short by the sounds of screeching tires and shattering glass. So began the annual Holiday Safety Show.

"Not only do we feel this keeps soldiers safe over the holidays, it gives soldiers a chance to perform in front of their peers," Steve Walpert, Fort Gordon's entertainment director, said about the show, which was performed six times during the weekend at Alexander Hall.

The show combined music and humor with a serious message.

"The Army has experienced a high number of accidental deaths. Last year, 243 soldiers died accidentally. A majority of the accidents were preventable. Even one preventable accident is too many," Brig. Gen. Randolph P. Strong, Fort Gordon's commanding general, said in a videotaped message played at the beginning of the show.

The show was targeted at the soldiers who leave Fort Gordon for two weeks during the holidays for what is known as Exodus.

In 1999, Pfc. Benjamin Donaldson was driving home with friends when his car went off the road and plunged into the icy Arkansas River. He pushed his friend's wife and their baby out of the car window to safety.

Pfc. Donaldson, 20, died that December day. The California native was going to be married when he arrived home.

During the safety show, there was a clip of the television newscast of Pfc. Donaldson's memorial service at Fort Gordon.

The safety show mainly focused on road, fire and gun safety. But Brig. Gen. Strong also urged soldiers to keep a watchful eye in busy hubs such as airports and bus stations during their travels home.

While humorous, a skit with Pvt. Doofus and Pvt. Dweeb drove home the message.

In the skit, the soldiers sat their duffle bags down and left them unattended. While one was flirting with a couple of girls, several hairy and scraggly looking terrorists planted a couple of bombs and a rocket in the duffle bag.

Pvt. Doofus and Pvt. Dweeb picked up the bags, and an explosion was heard.

"Our message is very simple. We care about you, and we want you to return safely. Make smart choices," said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Buttermore, one of the show's masters of ceremonies.

The soldiers will return to Fort Gordon on Jan. 2.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at czbrackett@hotmail.com.