Tough DVs visit Landstuhl

Spc. Todd Goodman, Story and photo
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

***image1***Two “tough” characters visited patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center recently to express their gratitude and boost morale.  

Dubbed the Smith and Wesson Tour, “Survivor Australia” winner Tina Wesson and novelist Carl Smith visited patient wards in January as part of a USO handshake tour.

As a “Survivor” winner, Mrs. Wesson had to be tough. During the show, she lost 20 pounds, received only two tablespoons of rice per day and performed in many physical activities and competitions.

But what could possibly be so tough about a novelist? Mr. Smith was the nation’s first President’s Man – meaning he worked directly for Presidents Lyndon Johnson through Jimmy Carter on covert missions. His novels are based on his experiences in one of the most exciting, yet secretive jobs in existence.

“Oh man, I just love these servicemembers,” said Mr. Smith, also a boxer and seventh-degree black belt in Hapkido, Tae Kwon Do and Judo. “Their attitudes are just, wow. They’re tough … like (Tina), not a pansy like me!”

“C’mon now, I’m really nobody,” said Mrs. Wesson. “I just went on a bad camping trip.”

The unassuming “Survivor” winner sometimes went unnoticed even by one of her most ardent fans.

“I’m embarrassed to say this, but I didn’t recognize her at first,” said Sgt. Jason Lyon, Bravo Company, a patient from the 1st/108th Infantry in Iraq.

Once Mrs. Wesson left Sergeant Lyon’s room and moved on, it dawned on him who she was.

“I was like, ‘Holy cow! That was Tina!’” he said. “I had to chase her down, because my wife would have killed me if I had not gotten a picture with her.”

She was happy to oblige the young sergeant. Both she and Mr. Smith were honored to visit the wounded servicemembers.

Mr. Smith, who visits servicemembers at Walter Reed, said he draws inspiration from the young warriors. No matter how many times he visits them, the novelty never wears off. It always warms his heart, he said.

Mrs. Wesson, like many others, was affected by the 2001 terrorist attacks and has used her celebrity to help motivate and comfort others.

“I’ve lived 40 years and had always felt safe and thought that America wasn’t vulnerable,” said Mrs. Wesson, who never had a vote cast against her during “Survivor.” “After 9/11, my thinking changed. I couldn’t even sing a patriotic song without bawling. That is why I wanted to come here and see these young men and women. It allows me to put faces with the news stories.”

“I’m proud of her,” said Sergeant Lyon. “She’s an older lady who put her body through a serious beating to win “Survivor.” It shows you how much heart she has. It’s the same way in Iraq. You have to have heart because some days you simply don’t want to continue.”