"Fighter" Mark Wahlberg weighs in on Afghanistan

Sat Jan 8, 2011 4:20pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. presidents aren't the only ones who make surprise visits to troops in Afghanistan. "The Fighter" Mark Wahlberg made his own trek to the war-torn country in December, but with little media attention that typically follows dignitaries and Hollywood stars.

Dressed in jeans, leather jacket, bullet-proof vest and battle-ready helmet, Wahlberg stepped off military transport and into the former home of a Taliban drug lord who had been ousted by U.S. troops. There was no Hollywood-style shootout, although he says he might have felt better with a gun in his hand.

The 36-hour visit days before Christmas was made without much fan fare because, he said, he didn't want any publicity.

"That's not why I was going," he told Reuters in an exclusive interview this week. "I just wanted to go over there and spend some time with them and know that we do appreciate what they're doing, and bring well wishes and love and support from home. That's all I wanted to do.

He said he wanted to see for himself the conditions under which the troops and the Afghan people were living. "It was something that I was very excited about doing, and I'm very glad that I made the journey."

Wahlberg, 39, rose to fame as a young rapper and later became a movie actor and producer of hit HBO show "Entourage," which is based on his own life as an up-and-coming star.

He even portrayed an ex-military marksman in "Shooter," and said that when he was young and in legal trouble he considered joining the U.S. Marines. His trip to Afghanistan was the first time, he said, he had a chance to visit troops.

The quick in-and-out was arranged by Bill White, ex-head of New York's Intrepid Air Sea and Space Museum, who met Wahlberg through a friend. Wahlberg told White he'd like to go to Afghanistan. White said he would see if he could arrange it.   Continued...