I wish the men and women of America’s armed services every good thing possible — a quick and safe trip home comes to mind, but being as they’re the ones risking getting exploded and such, I’m inclined to defer to more or less whatever it is they want. Morale boosters? Hell yeah, take what you like. Big and Rich singing the Charlie Daniels songbook a capella? Knock yourselves out, guys and gals. Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em’s Superman That Ho Revue (feat. Leon Isaac Kennedy, Fatman Scoop and Shanice)? It’s a free country, with free armed services, and I really do hope you enjoy that revue. But assuming that someone over there actually thought morale would be boosted by having a few ex-Big League doofs helicopter from base to base in Iraq — and this is a leap I’m not totally willing to make — couldn’t we as a nation do better than Jeff Nelson? The New York Times’ Jack Curry reports on the reliably mustachioed ex-Yankee reliever’s most recent endeavor.

œI™m going to Iraq, Nelson said. I had to ask Nelson to repeat himself, which he did. Nelson, who left for Iraq on Monday, explained to me that he had been recruited to visit the United States military as part of a good-will mission with other former players. Nelson will be joined by Trot Nixon and Andy Ashby.

…œWe send numerous inquiries to the former players that fit a certain set of criteria dictated by the military and were thrilled when Jeff, Andy, and Trot expressed interest in participating, [Pro Sports MVP corporate communications manager] Burdett said in an e-mail message.

During a 12-day tour, Nelson, Nixon and Ashby will be visiting numerous bases in Iraq and will meet between 2,000 and 3,000 servicemen and women from all branches of the military. The former players eat in the barracks with the military personnel, sign autographs, visit hospitals and give away caps and T-Shirts.

Which, you know, have at ’em, guys. It’s awesome that those three want to help out and all, but what secret military criteria are these? Nixon hit .274 over his career; Ashby retired with a 98-110 record; Nelson had a solid career, but is perhaps best-remembered for beating up a Red Sox bullpen attendant alongside zero-time Roberto Clemente Award finalist Karim Garcia. I don’t want to tell the military how to do its job or anything, but while those three certainly meet the Mets’ criteria for a Spring Training invite — as near as I can tell, those are: pulse, big-city experience, notably diminished skills, having met Omar Minaya at a party in the ’90s — their presence on a military base doesn’t seem terribly inspiring. Still, probably better than a visit from 3 Doors Down or something.