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John Ratzenberger visits Team V


Working in the Public Affairs office, here, gives me opportunities to stand shoulder to shoulder with military leaders, celebrities, and athletes. One of these opportunities placed a face to the voice I grew up hearing in all of my favorite Pixar movies. Outside of bringing life to a character in every single Pixar movie, my family recognized him from his character, Cliff Clavin from “Cheers”.

Last Friday, June 16, 2017, the United Services Organization brought actor John Ratzenberger to Vandenberg Air Force Base for the premiere of “Cars 3”. Ratzenberger voices Mack, Lightning McQueen’s tower, for the third time in this movie series.

That afternoon when I walked into the Pacific Coast Club to take pictures for my job I immediately recognized Ratzenberger’s voice from around a corner as Hamm, the piggy bank, from my favorite childhood movie series, “Toy Story”. The first scene that came to my memory was when Hamm, Rex, Bo Peep and Buzz Lightyear were frantically searching for an Al’s Toy Barn commercial on Andy’s TV.

Ratzenberger met with some of Vandenberg’s elite to discuss over lunch the functions the base plays in the nation’s security over lunch. As I hovered around the room to take photos, memories of different characters he voiced and scenes he was in flooded my memory. I couldn’t hide the smile on my face every time Ratzenberger spoke.

“It’s so impressive what [the Airmen] do here, and most people don’t realize it’s here,” said Ratzenberger. “The rockets, the satellites, and all of the people that put it together make me so proud to be an American. I thank God every day that I was born in this country and to meet people that run this base, and bases like it. It is a very reassuring feeling.”

For me, although my time around Ratzenberger was limited, it gave me a feeling of pride that he was still excited to learn the mission of Vandenberg when you think of all of his success in the entertainment industry.

“Driving up here I was really looking forward to it,” said Ratzenberger. “This is the first USO event I’ve done. When you think of everything that the people in the Armed Services do for us, this is the least I could do.”

After Ratzenberger finished lunch, and a few more stops on his tour, I met up with him and the USO crew for an interview before Ratzenberger answered the crowd’s questions and the “Cars 3” screening at the base theater.

The most impactful thing that Ratzenberger said to all of us was, “It’s very humbling to me to see what everyone does here to keep us safe. Thank-you to the people of Vandenberg for everything you do and for your hearts being wrapped in the same flag that mine is wrapped in.”

From here on out I’ll feel my Air Force pride each time I hear Ratzenberger’s voice in my favorite movies knowing that I met Hamm, the piggy bank.