Tuesday, June 23, 2009

McMahon left impression on entertainment world and Oregon soldiers

Above: Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who were featured in a 2006 documentary, "This is War," were honored during a Hollywood screening of the film on March 10, 2008, in Los Angeles, Calif. From L to R: Ryan Howell, Sgt. Ryan Tuttle, former Tonight Show co-host, Ed McMahon, Sgt. 1st Class Phillip "Vinnie" Jacques, Staff Sgt. Kris Petersen, Rebekka Mae-Bruns, and Luke Wilson.

Last night, the entertainment world lost an icon. And for a handful of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers, the world lost a friend.

According to a spokesperson for the venerable actor and longtime Johnny Carson sidekick on the Tonight Show, Ed McMahon passed away early Tuesday. He was 86.

In March, 2008, a group of Oregonians had the chance to meet Ed McMahon, following the screening of the Iraq war documentary, "This is War: Memories of Iraq," at the second annual Cinema City Film Festival in Hollywood, Calif.

Oregon Army National Guard soldiers, Ryan Howell, Vincent Jacques, Ryan Tuttle, Kris Petersen, Rebekka-Mae Bruns, and Luke Wilson were honored at a formal event following the screening of the war documentary by Oregon independent film director Gary Mortensen.

For two days, the soldiers were treated like celebrities. Cameras clicked and videotape rolled. The red-carpet event was followed by a special screening of the film, and a party where the soldiers were able to meet and mingle with some of the featured celebrities in attendence.

After all the congratulations were exchanged, autographs were signed, and the red carpet rolled up, the Oregonians were ready to head home. On the morning of their departure, Mr. McMahon invited the group to visit him in his Hollywood hills home. What we found did not fit the typical Hollywood celebrity stereotype. McMahon was about as genuine and down-to-earth as you could get.

From L to R: Staff Sgt. Kris Petersen, "This is War" director, Gary Mortensen, Ryan Howell and Luke Wilson look over Ed McMahon's artwork and photographs. The former Tonight Show co-host invited the Oregon soldiers to his house in Beverly Hills to personally thank them for their service.
As a former naval aviator in WWII, McMahon understood the sacrifice these Oregonians endured during their year-long tour in Iraq. He said the opportunity to meet the soldiers from Oregon was a personal honor.

"I'm so happy to have them here in my home and share some of my military experiences with them," he said from behind a large desk in his study. Behind him, the walls were plastered with photos and memorabilia from his many years in the military and show business.

"They're quite a group," he added as an afterthought. "And they need to be honored at all times."

Before the soldiers departed for the airport, McMahon and his wife Pam gave each of them a gift basket containing books from their 'favorites' reading list, snacks, and a signed, framed photograph of the entertainer. The gift was modest, but the gesture left a memorable impression on the soldiers.

"I am extremely humbled," said Vinnie Jacques. "Mr. McMahon is a really incredible guy."

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon Military Department Social Media Manager

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