Sunday, January 16, 2011

New England Patriots Cheerleader from West Bridgewater, MA visits troops and show support for our Military

The New England Patriots may have lost the game we wanted to win, but this local girl has made good as a New England Patriots Cheerleader, visiting troops in Afghanistan. The Cheerleaders visit troops around the world to show them how much we back home support the troops and that the New England Patriots are a world class organization, extending sportsmanship and good will to all.....especially our deployed troops far from home.

Patriots cheerleader from West Bridgewater visits troops in Afghanistan.
By Amanda Reed
Brockton Enterprise
Posted Jan 16, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

QUINCY — Less than a year after Stephanie Petronelli of West Bridgewater made the New England Patriots cheerleading squad, the 20-year-old was in the Middle East serenading U.S. soldiers in her sand-covered uniform.

“When I made the team, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Petronelli, of West Bridgewater.

“I had heard about all of the charitable work they did and all of the places they went, but I had no idea,” she said.

Petronelli – boosted by her Brockton roots – sparked her vocal career at age 12 by singing in boxing rings throughout the region.

Her great uncle, Goody Petronelli, trained Brockton boxing champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler in a city gym.

The 20-year-old started cheering for the professional squad in March, and is one of the youngest on the team.

“My friends and mom all told me to try out, so I did,” Petronelli said.

After about a month of try-outs and callbacks, she made the team.

“It’s a part-time job with a full-time commitment,” she said.

From Dec. 20 to Jan. 1, Petronelli and five other cheerleaders from the 24-member squad visited military bases in Afghanistan, Qatar and Kyrgyzstan.

Petronelli performed four songs, and served as the “master of ceremonies” for many of the performances.

As part of their hourlong show – which included singing, dancing and interacting with the soldiers – the crew invited men and women onstage and asked them to audition as if they were trying out to be a New England Patriots cheerleader or NFL football player.

During the “audience participation” segment, soldiers were encouraged to trade the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas” lyrics for what they really wanted during the holiday season.

Their responses, Petronelli said, were both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

“They wanted plane tickets home, seven days of rest and relaxation and time with their loved ones,” she said.

In Kyrgyzstan, where the group spent about five days, the women visited a school and performed for about 40 underprivileged children. The students made up a dance for the cheerleaders, despite the language barrier.

The Patriots group delivered scarves, presents, Christmas cards and stockings. Petronelli said the children clung to the cheerleaders, hugging them, grabbing at their hands, wanting them to play, she said.

On top of badges, patches and souvenirs that the women received as “thank-yous” from each base they visited, the U.S. Air Force presented them with an American flag.

Being away from home on Christmas and New Year’s Day was particularly somber, she said.

“The troops miss holidays and special occasions all year long,” said Petronelli. “It made us appreciate what they go through and what they sacrifice for us.”

But these teammates didn’t just observe the soldiers – they lived like them, too.

In Afghanistan, the women slept at a different base every night, visiting three to four bases per day.

They donned “battle rattle,” or about 40 pounds of protective gear each time they traveled.

They slept in tents, sometimes on bare box springs, took “three-minute military showers” and rode in Black Hawk helicopters when traveling between remote bases.

“If we weren’t performing, we were wearing armor,” Petronelli said. “We were doing everything that they were doing.”

The squad hails from all over New England and members range in age from 18 to 29. They attend four-hour practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in addition to game-day practice and required appearances during the week.

A full-time student at Bridgewater State University and a 2009 graduate of West Bridgewater Middle Senior High School, Petronelli is pursuing a degree in communications.

Amanda Reed can be reached at

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