American Forces Press Service
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, April 19, 2012 – Nearly 400 excited troops, mainly U.S. Marines, packed a hangar to meet the USO's latest volunteer group of talented singers, performers and entertainment personalities here yesterday.
“It's really good for us to see you here today,” said Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the tour’s military host. “Thanks for coming out and giving us the privilege to be with you this afternoon.”
Winnefeld described the troupe as “some wonderful men and women who are wearing the cloth of their nation and putting their lives on the line to protect our way of life.”
“And [you] bring a new era of freedom to this country, Afghanistan, and we thank you for your service,” he told the service members in the audience.
The admiral was joined by comedian and actor Anthony Anderson; retired Major League Baseball pitcher Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson; actor Jason “Wee-Man” Acuna; actor and pitchman Dennis Haysbert; Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders Allyson Traylor, Brittany Evans and Kelsi Reich; and former “American Idol” contestants Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young.
Winnefeld told the audience that he and other senior leaders in the nation's capital are paying attention to what is happening in Afghanistan, and he congratulated them on their accomplishments.
“Know that we pay close attention to what you're up to,” he said. “[We see] all those successes you've had in Marjah, Helmand, Kajaki and all of the various provinces around here. We know that you guys are kicking [butt] out there and everybody that comes back from this theater tells us what a remarkable change that's happened in this part of Afghanistan because of the great work that you've been doing.”
Winnefeld noted that the USO has been a part of serving troops either deployed or stationed overseas for decades.
”It's been a tremendous tradition for our country,” he said, “and I have been very privileged to travel this week with a remarkable group of stars and performers who do not need to come out here and do this.”
The admiral praised the volunteer celebrities for taking time out to visit U.S. troops. “Because they love and respect the military, they have chosen to set aside a week of their lives to come and spend some time out here,” he said.
Before kicking off the USO show for the enthusiastic crowd, the vice chairman expressed the nation's gratitude and reminded troops they are in the country's thoughts and prayers.
“We are praying for you,” he said. “We thank you for the service and sacrifice that you've [made]. We thank you for the progress you're making on the battlefield. We pray for those of you who have lost [comrades] and their families -- we're going to take care of them.
“We pray for those of you who have been wounded and your comrades who have been wounded and we are taking care of them,” Winnefeld continued. “We pray for your success on the battlefield, and we pray for your safe return home.”