Cher Goes to Washington


June 15, 2006— -- Cher brought her pipes to Washington, pushing politicians to provide soldiers with better helmets. The 60-year old Oscar-winning entertainer testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, urging politicians to pay the extra money to get our troops more protective helmets.

The pop singer was accompanied by Dr. Bob Meaders, the founder of Operation Helmet, a nonprofit group that supplies helmet upgrade kits.

Cher stands-by "Operation Helmet," a group that provides helmets to help soldiers avoid head injuries while in the war zone.

Cher says adding a protective pad only costs $70 to $100 and that could mean the difference between life and death. But the Pentagon says it can't afford the cost.

As the former wife of late California Republican representative Sonny Bono, Cher's political fire comes as no surprise.

Cher recently vocalized her stance as an unidentified caller into C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" over Memorial Day weekend. At 4:20 am the singer wasn't resting at her home in Malibu, rather she had politics on her mind. During an open call segment she started a dialogue with host Steve Scully about the need 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."

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."

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