By Air Force Capt. Anna-Marie Wyant
Hundreds of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines currently deployed to Bagram and Kandahar airfields, Afghanistan, got a chance to meet celebrities and relax during two USO shows March 31 and April 1.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva and USO President and CEO J.D. Crouch II accompanied seven performers including chef and TV personality, Robert Irvine, country singer, Craig Morgan, former MLB player, Shane Victorino, pro surfer and singer, Makua Rothman and UFC fighters: B.J. Penn, Chris Weidman and Felice Herrig.
The group also entertained troops at military installations in Germany, Italy, Iraq and Qatar during the five-day USO tour.
“The soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen and civilians deployed throughout Afghanistan have left behind the comforts of home to serve in challenging conditions to protect our great nation, our friends and our freedoms,” Selva said.
“It’s our objective to bring a touch of home to those who are not at home, and more importantly, remind them that America is thankful for their service.”
The celebrities echoed Selva’s thanks during their performances, which required a lot of audience participation and resulted in many laughs and cheers throughout.
“Thank you for serving, for being here downrange,” Victorino said.
“It means a lot to me…something I will never take for granted is to be an American and live in the United States of America. Thanks very much for all that you guys do.”
“You guys are fighting the ultimate fight and sacrificing so much for our country and our freedom,” Herrig added. “I’ll be thinking about all of you and dedicating my next fight to you.”
The show closed with a performance by Morgan and his band, plus a special guest.
Selva joined the band onstage with his guitar to play and sing along for the last few songs. Several attendees sang along throughout, and nearly the entire audience joined in the closing song: “America the Beautiful.”
After the shows, the performers - who all volunteered their time to come on the tour - signed autographs, took selfies and chatted with service members, many of whom were star-struck.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Craig Morgan because I grew up on country music, but I’ve never had the chance to see him live. It was really awesome,” said Tech. Sgt. Tabitha Thomas, a 455th Air Expeditionary Wing command post controller at Bagram Airfield.
“Seeing the vice chairman play with him was definitely a once in a lifetime experience as well, so I’m glad I was there to see it.”
Thomas said she loved the show and enjoyed the variety of entertainment, but most of all, she appreciated the support from the USO and performers.
“Seeing the camaraderie between stars from so many different backgrounds was really cool,” Thomas said. “Having something like these shows really boosts morale and reminds us that what we’re doing out here matters.”
This was the first USO tour in Afghanistan in 2019. The last tour was on Christmas Eve and included shows at Kandahar, Bagram and Forward Operating Base Dahlke.
The USO has been bringing entertainment to service members overseas for more than 77 years to help keep them connected to their home and family.
This story originally appeared on af.mil. It has been edited for style, brevity and accuracy.
More from the USO
Feb 25, 2020
Military Spouses Say ‘Yes’ to a Special USO Coffee Connection Live with TLC’s Monte Durham
Monte Durham of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta” is synonymous with all things weddings, fashion and southern charm. But did you know he also has a special connection with the U.S. military and the USO?
Feb 24, 2020
Here's How The First USO Centers Were Created
This was the plan in early 1941: America would provide aid and some comforts of home for its swelling military ranks. The government would build and lease buildings and citizens would staff and fund centers through the newly formed USO. It happened that way... some of the time.
Feb 21, 2020
How One Deployed Soldier Found a Way to Surprise His Active-Duty Son, Half a Continent Away
When this father-son duo simultaneously deployed to different European locations in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the last thing anyone expected was for the father to surprise his son at his promotion ceremony half a continent away.