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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
12/11/2003 11:42:03 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Ja Rule.

Queens native Ja Rule, known for songs like "F--- You" and "B---- Betta Have My Money," went on a goodwill mini-tour among the troops yesterday, firing up Army reservists about to ship out from Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, headed for Iraq.

"They usually don't bring people like me to events like this, but I'm here!" shouted Ja Rule as he strolled into a gym packed with about 125 reservists, their families and other soldiers.

"I respect what you all do, and I just want to say thank you for holding down this extraordinary country we live in," said the rapper.

Ja Rule was supposed to leave after his brief remarks but stayed for photos with the troops, who mobbed him.

But the morale boost from the rapper couldn't calm all the tears and jitters among members of the 436 Movement Control Battalion and the 8th Medical Brigade and their families.

"I'm very sad, but at the same time, she's doing something for [the] nation. I'm 100% proud of her," said Queens mechanic Tito Saltos, 41, whose wife, Anna Bravo, 36, was leaving on a bus for Fort Dix in New Jersey.

Staten Island-born John Yordinsky, 24, leaves behind a possible job with the city Fire Department and his sick mom, who has four younger children to rear alone.

"I've never been anywhere special, so this is a lifetime experience," said Yordinsky, whose neighbor was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "They [my family] really rely on me, so it's harder on them."

The troops are expected to be in Iraq by the end of the month. They'll serve for 18 to 24 months. The battalion drives and tracks vehicles, while brigade members work in hospitals that treat injured soldiers.

Like many, Brooklyn College student Michael Ozersky, 23, didn't know where his battalion would end up. His parents hoped he would E-mail them with the laptop they gave him.

"It's cloudy, but in the end, I know I'll be all right," said Ozersky, of Sheepshead Bay. But his girlfriend didn't want to take that chance.

"I'm not happy, definitely," said Irina Shterenberg, 20. "I don't want him to go. I want him to be here, every moment."

Many of the reservists said they were pleased by the visit from Ja Rule. He was invited to the sendoff earlier this week by a producer for MSNBC who's also a reservist doing public relations for the Army.

Known for his ongoing feud with his nemesis - fellow rap star and Queens native 50 Cent - Ja Rule seems to be discovering his softer side.

In November, he donated $5,000 to defray the cost of a funeral for an 8-year-old boy shot in a gun battle between drug dealers in Brooklyn. Also yesterday, he stopped by a Brooklyn school to talk to students about breaking into the music business.

The rapper's spokeswoman, Kelly Womack, denied Ja Rule is looking to clean up his public image.

"Celebrities should give back to people for no reason other than from the heart," Womack said.

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