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From left, David Blaine, Jon Stewart and Karl Malone shake hands with the troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo: USO)
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Stewart, Malone, Blaine Bring Jokes, Basketball, Magic to Deployed Troops during Adm. Mullen’s Final USO Tour

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

By Tom Sileo 

“We can’t thank you enough,” Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” told cheering American troops over the weekend in Afghanistan.  “I cannot tell you what an honor it is to be here to thank you all in person for all that you do.”

Stewart, along with basketball hall of famer Karl Malone and illusionist David Blaine, joined Adm. Mike Mullen on his tenth and final USO tour as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which touched three countries in six days.  As Stewart said Monday on his Comedy Central program, lifting the spirits of our deployed troops, even in a war zone’s unforgiving heat, was a once in a lifetime chance.

“What a great opportunity that they allowed me to go with them,” Stewart told his audience.  “They’re great people at the USO and it was a wonderful opportunity.”

Malone, who electrified millions of NBA fans with his spectacular dunks, rebounds and defense, said there’s nothing quite like putting smiles on the faces of men and women who volunteer to risk their lives.   For “The Mailman,” as he was nicknamed during his stellar career, delivering a message of thanks is personal.

“I have many friends and family members who have served, or are currently serving, in our nation’s Armed Forces and I have such a profound respect for what they do day in and day out,” Malone said in a statement.  “This USO tour is especially meaningful because of the friends I have met and I am honored to be a part of it.”

As of Aug. 1, the tour, which is part of an ongoing USO tradition of partnering with senior leaders and working with celebrity entertainers to bring a touch of home to troops stationed abroad, had lifted the spirits of more than 3,200 troops on five overseas military bases.  For Blaine, the chance to meet and perform a few tricks for our men and women in uniform was truly magical.

“As a magician, nothing is more amazing than going overseas on the front lines and witnessing first-hand the dedication, bravery, and self-sacrifice of our nation’s troops,” Blaine said in a statement.  “This USO tour has been eye-opening and life-changing.”

Before his last trip, Adm. Mullen led nine USO tours to 13 countries, lifting the spirits of more than 74,300 troops.  Celebrities, musicians, and well-known sports figures including Kid Rock, Robin Williams, Lewis Black, Lance Armstrong, Drew Brees, Roger Goodell, Bradley Cooper, Anna Kournikova, and David Robinson joined the admiral on the highly successful trips.

Adm. Mike Mullen chats with Hall of Famer Karl Malone. (Photo: USO)“My last year leading USO tours as Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff has been one of the highlights of my career,” said Mullen, who has served in the military since 1968.  “There is nothing that has brought me more happiness than seeing the faces of so many troops light up after meeting their favorite stars on their turf, or for that matter, witnessing so many stars humbled and forever changed by their experience overseas.”

Stewart, who wore every single t-shirt given to him in Afghanistan under his sport coat during Monday’s broadcast, is one of those entertainers who will never be the same after seeing the sacrifices being made during one of America’s post-9/11 conflicts up close.

“It was an incredible weekend … I can’t really put it into words,” Stewart said as his studio audience loudly applauded in support of our troops.  “People can disagree about strategies and (politics), foreign policy and things of that nature, but hopefully we can all agree that the men and women of our armed services are giving so much to our country.”

Watch as the trio mingle with the troops, courtesy of DVIDS.net. 

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Related Links: 

* See Jon Stewart’s message to the troops from “The Daily Show” upon his return from the tour.

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