By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff greeted and praised troops at two U.S. bases in Afghanistan during his annual USO holiday tour show.
“They're great Americans, and they're patriots,” Dempsey told troops at Bagram. “And they really care about you. They've given up their holidays. I'm actually very privileged to be traveling with them, and bringing them here to you tonight.”
Battaglia, who spoke after the chairman and before the start of the entertainment portion of the show, had a similar message for service members at both bases.
“As our 18th chairman said, it is, indeed, a privilege and honor to spend part of Christmas and the holiday season with you all,” he said. “We'd love to stay here with you through Christmas, through New Years, you know we would.”
The sergeant major said while it's unfortunate that most of the troops are unable to be home with their families for the holidays, they are certainly not alone.
“While you're not at home or not able to be home with your biological family to spend the holiday season, you're here, by God, with your uniformed military family to spend it,” Battaglia said. “And it doesn't get much better than that, right?”
Both senior leaders used different, but effective methods, to energize the crowds. Battaglia led service members in a raucous chant of “U-S-A,” while Dempsey highlighted the troops’ individual pride of their units and branches of service.
“Those folks that the chairman are going to introduce you to, in just a minute here, are from a country that you love, they're from a country that you protect, and from a country in which you live,” Battaglia said. “It's the USA, and that would be the most motivating force right now. Those three letters -- all in unison.”
Dempsey introduced each USO celebrity to kick off both shows. Washington Nationals Major League Baseball players Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen; Matt Hendricks from the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals; comedian Iliza Schlesinger, winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing; and country music singer Kellie Pickler and her band performed on behalf of the USO.
Additionally, the chairman recognized USO President Sloan D. Gibson, and Shane Hudella of “Defending the Blue Line,” an organization that donates hockey equipment to military families.
Following both shows, Dempsey showcased his own talent, serenading the packed venues with his rendition of singer Bing Crosby's “A White Christmas.”
“It is Christmas and I hope that you had a few moments to remember that and to forget about everything else in your life right now,” the chairman said.
Dempsey also praised the troops for their service to the nation.
“I hope you know how proud we are of what you do every day for the country,” he said. “We're proud of your service. You're all volunteers -- that includes the civilians out there that have come over here to help support the men and women in uniform. And we're really proud of you.”