Army Sgt. Terry Solomon returned home from Iraq on Tuesday. A day later, he and his family were taped for “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Solomon, his wife, Wendy, and their four children shared their story with Winfrey via satellite from the York Theater on Fort Bragg.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to appear on ‘Oprah,’ ” Wendy Solomon said after the taping.
The segment is scheduled to air Tuesday as part of a special episode of the talk show called “Oprah & People: Salute Headline Making Heroes.”
About 700 people including soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team and their families attended Wednesday’s taping. Crews from Winfrey’s talk show set up stage lights and cameras inside the theater the day before.
The audience watched on a movie screen as Winfrey’s show was recorded before a live studio audience in Chicago. The Fort Bragg crowd screamed “We love you Oprah!” and clapped as the show appeared on the screen.
“It’s heroes daaaaaaay!” Winfrey shouted into the camera, drawing cheers.
The screams grew louder when it was revealed that country singer Wynonna Judd was at the theater in person to thank the paratroopers for their service.
The soldiers for the 3rd brigade have been heading home from Iraq since the start of the month. About 3,500 paratroopers are returning from deployment.
“One of country music’s biggest superstars wanted to be in Fort Bragg to personally welcome you home,” Winfrey told the crowd.
Judd opened by singing “America, the Beautiful.” She then served as Winfrey’s surrogate host, interviewing members of the audience.
“You guys have a lot of attitude in here,” Judd told the audience who greeted her with a standing ovation.
Judd interviewed Solomon and his family, who talked about how they coped with deployment. The family said they kept the tradition of Solomon tucking the children into bed at night by recording his voice inside a talking teddy bear. The children played dad’s goodnight message by touching the teddy bear.
“That was a big surprise,” Terry Solomon said later about being interviewed by Judd.
Other soldiers and their families said the whole experience of seeing a taping of Winfrey’s show was a huge treat.
Spc. Michael Stevens joked before entering the theater that Winfrey was going to give everyone in the audience a car. The talk show host is known for surprising her studio audience with gifts.
“She always gives her audience something,” said Stevens, who returned from Iraq five days ago.
Laura Trentham, whose husband Capt. Jeremy Trentham arrived home Tuesday, said she was excited when she heard about the taping at Fort Bragg. Trentham said Winfrey has shown support for the troops in previous episodes of her talk show.
“I love her show. I love what she represents. I love the stories that she tells,” Trentham said while in line to enter the theater.
By featuring the stories of soldiers on her show, Winfrey reminds Americans of the sacrifices military families make every day, Trentham said.
“People forget. It’s not in the news as much. It’s not in the forefront,” Trentham said. “People like Oprah, and the things she does puts it back in the forefront.”