Dean Cain originally shot to stardom in the '90s as a caped hero in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," but these days, he keeps busy with a recurring role as Casey Manning, owner of the Montecito Hotel & Casino on the hit NBC Friday drama "Las Vegas."
And in his free time, he played a firefighter digging trapped folks out of an earthquake-damaged Las Vegas casino in the upcoming NBC miniseries "10.5: Apocalypse," airing Sunday and Tuesday, May 21 and 23.
Despite all this, Cain still found time for an experience that had little to do with show business.
"I went to Iraq a year ago," Cain says, "and saw the soldiers doing their work and what they're doing out there. I have such great respect for people who are the doers. I was visiting the troops, thanking them for their sacrifices and showing much support for them. I went there for two weeks.
"Myself and one other person went over there to just thank them on what was called 'The Ambassadors of Hollywood Tour.' Apparently, the 5 or 10,000 e-mails they sent out, three of us responded to the positive, said we'd go to Iraq for two weeks."
According to published reports, Cain traveled with model and actress Amanda Swisten ("Joey," "American Wedding"). They visited Camp Liberty, northeast of Baghdad airport, on May 22, 2005, then moved on to Camp Taji and other locations.
"It changed me," Cain says. "It definitely changed me. It lingers for me, and I was only there for two weeks. I became good friends with a bunch of the guys. They were so thankful that I was over there.
"At these forward operating bases, they would stand there and wait in line in full battle gear in 130-degree heat outside, no shade. They'd stand there and wait for an hour and a half to shake my hand to say thanks for coming out."
Although he's a seasoned traveler, Cain had apprehensions about going to the front lines.
"I've got to be honest," he says, "it was not an easy experience. I was terrified. I was more scared because of my son, because I didn't want to leave my son without a father. But that's also the reason that I went, which is, look, there are all these parents with children over there doing their job, and they're in harm's way, and it's dangerous. We should thank them.
"I got on a plane. I spent money to go over there and do that. I just felt like it was a part of my duty. I'd be ashamed not to have done it."
Cain also saw what it means when the soldiers receive messages from home.
"You know how classrooms will have things like, write something to the soldiers? I remember doing stuff like that when I was a kid. When I'm actually in Iraq, and I'm at a forward operating base in the middle of freaking nowhere, I'm with the hardest of the hard dudes I've ever met in my life, doing the toughest jobs I've ever seen.
"Then you go by the Tactical Operations Command, all these kids' things, 'Thank you, Mr. Soldier' -- it kills you. They're all up there. That stuff boosts morale, and the guys go, 'Look, that's what I'm fighting for.'"
Cain also visited a soldier wounded in an attack.
"I was in hospitals all over Baghdad," he says. "A guy got shot at this forward operating base while I was there, and they shot the Iraqi too. After [the U.S. soldier] had his surgery, when he woke up, I was one of the first guys he saw.
"It's not like acting. It's not like anything else. You're there. I had the bullets in a plastic bag in my hand. He hadn't seen them yet. I showed him his bullets, the two that were taken out of him.
"Our guy didn't die, and the Iraqi did not die. It's kind of great."
Asked if he'd return, Cain says, "I'd go back, absolutely, not in the summertime, though. Our military is so incredible, so amazing."