Colbert Soldiers on in New Campaign - NBC New York

Colbert Soldiers on in New Campaign

Iraq and Afghanistan veteran's group may honor entertainer



    Colbert Soldiers on in New Campaign
    Stephen Colbert got good buzz from his recent trip to Iraq.

    Stephen Colbert, the blowhard TV character, has pushed his fans to flood online contests to put his name on everything from a Hungarian bridge to a space shuttle module.

    Now a soldiers’ group has started an online petition to give Stephen Colbert, the entertainer, a well-deserved tribute: naming him an honorary member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

    Colbert earned his stripes last month when he headed to Iraq for a week of shows in which he interviewed brass and rank-and-file soldiers, bumbled his way through some basic training drills, and got a buzz cut on the direct order of President Obama.

    The shows were funny, but more importantly they put a rare spotlight on the soldiers serving in Iraq. Even if Iraq has become a political punchline for comedians, Colbert showed an appreciation for the troops’ service that transcends views on the war.

    Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told Colbert on last Monday’s edition of "The Colbert Report" that if the online petition gets 25,000 signatures, the group will name him an honorary veteran. He’s about 10,000 clicks away.

    Colbert has asked his fans to stuff virtual ballot boxes in past naming campaigns, spoofing the silliness of such gimmicks. But unlike his recent bid to get a space shuttle module named in his honor (NASA ultimately put his moniker on a shuttle treadmill), Colbert hasn’t been exactly haranguing viewers to deluge the IAVA’s petition page.

    On his Colbert Nation site you’ll find links to the USO and charities that benefit soldiers’ children well above the link to the online petition -- which suggests this honor really means something to him.

    Colbert may have not made it into outer space quite the way he imagined, but he proved in Iraq he’s down to earth enough to triumph in one contest that’s no joke.  

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    Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.