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Friday, November 30, 2007

Rampage Joins the Marines

UFC Champ visits combat vets

Story by Cpl Ray Lewis

Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson visited Marines and Sailors here Nov. 20. The mixed martial arts star made his first stop at Camp Horno’s Single Marine Program to take pictures, sign autographs and play video games with some Marines.

Most were star-struck.

“I have been watching UFC since the beginning,” said Sgt. Eddie Hernandez, a radio operator with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Regiment. “Since the war started they have been giving a shout out to the troops. I’m a big UFC fan and I’m just happy to see this guy.” Others were glad to see that Jackson was a regular person.

The topic of most side conversations was that Rampage, at six-foot-one and 205 lbs, is not as big as he looks on television--especially when he’s playing a game of Halo 3 on the big screen TV with Marines.

“It kind of shows that everyone’s human, that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it,” said Sgt. Todd L. Luginbuhl, a squad leader with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

After the games, Rampage headed to the range to meet with the Marines of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance to see them shoot some rounds from their Light Armored Vehicles. Marines were more than anxious, to see him.

“To meet Rampage was awesome,” said Capt. Jeff B. Tennen, a LAV officer with Company A, 1st LAR Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. “He’s the baddest man in the world right now. All the Marines are so excited to know Rampage is coming and it says something about him to take time out of his day. It’s a good day for Alpha Company.”

LAV Marines usually spend the majority of their time in dusty fields, so it was a breath of fresh air to see Rampage sporting a flak and Kevlar beside them.

“He fits right in here, just another human being, a normal guy,” said Pfc. Kevin J. Bonovich, a LAV crewman with 1st LAR Battalion.

“He talks a lot of stuff but he can back it up,” said Bonovich about the bulky fighter.

Rampage, who is from Memphis, ended his tour with a visit to the Wounded Warriors Battalion West to spend some time with Marines there and play another couple games of Halo 3.

“It’s great that a guy with a busy schedule like that would take time out of his day to show support,” said Cpl. Alan D. Webster, a rifleman with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “I admire him for what he’s doing. It’s a dream job to be that good at kicking people’s butts.”

There was a mutual respect between Rampage and the Division Marines.

“He supports the troops and recognizes that the Marines have the same fighter mentality as well,” said Cpl. Anthony Duran, a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

Rampage displayed admiration for all the Marines but took specifically to one Marine, who survived an improvised explosive device blast that threw him 600 feet from a humvee during a deployment to Iraq.

“You’re the toughest man on the planet,” yelled Rampage, so everybody in the barracks could hear.

Rampage then stopped signing autographs just to get an autograph from the Marine. The Marine obliged but remained humble.

“Everybody says I’m a hero but the real heroes are the Marines over there deployed,” said Cpl. Michael R. Cole, a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

When Rampage left he made sure to thank the Marines for what they do for their country.

“Marines are the coolest people in the world,” Rampage said. “God bless and my prayers go out to y’all.”

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