Will Smith (USO Photo by Mark Matson)
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PHOTOS: Jaden, Will Smith Land at Fort Hood to Present 'After Earth' to Troops

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

KILLEEN, Texas – Will Smith strode the corridors. Sure he was being led by his management team but there was never a doubt of who was truly in the lead. From his dressing room to the stage for sound check and on to the media room, the 6-foot-2 superstar sharked through the halls with his trademark smile and a charisma that clings to him like a tailored suit.

Behind him along this winding route was his son and protégé, Jaden, a virtual Mini-Me of Will’s personality and skill set. Literally and figuratively, here was Jaden, 14, following in his father’s footsteps. Will positioned this film, “After Earth,” as a launching pad for Jaden’s transition into the space that Will has commanded for almost two decades: action film icon. Audiences will decide if Jaden can reach that rarified air, but the May 31 event, sponsored by the USO Entertainment and USO Fort Hood, was all about the Smiths showing their appreciation to the servicemen and women at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

“We definitely have a family commitment to the people who are serving our nation, because we are very grateful for that,” Jaden said. “We couldn’t live how we live now if it wasn’t for them, so we really just want to appreciate that.”

The event included a meet-and-greet where the Smiths chatted with over more than 100 wounded troops and their families, followed by a Q&A with about a dozen of the approximately 2,400 troops and family members who gathered at Abrams Physical Fitness Center for a special screening of the new film. Then came the surprise: a rare performance of some of Will’s greatest songs, backed by his longtime recording partner DJ Jazzy Jeff.

For Will, who was smiling, nodding and beaming as his son answered the media’s questions, it was a chance to work with the USO in bringing his talents to the servicemen and women in a way that works seamlessly with the USO’s mission to lift the spirits of troops and military families.

“This is fantastic,” Will said of the event. “I’ve been aware of the USO for years. … We’ve been trying to find something for a while and this was just a perfect opportunity.”

(For more images, visit our Flickr page.) 


Will and Jaden took time before the movie to answer more than a dozen questions from the audience. From questions like "What would you like to be remembered for?" ("As someone who cared," Will said) to "How can I become a singer?" ("Sing 24 hours a day," Jaden said), the Smiths had the crowd cheering and laughing.


Jaden and Will then dropped the lights, then some beats with DJ Jazzy Jeff keeping it rolling, pacing the Smiths to some of Will's biggest hits like "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," "Switch" and "Summertime."


Prior to the show and screening, Jaden and Will greeted over 100 wounded troops and their families in a special meet-and-greet. Will said at one point: “From our family to yours, we appreciate you.”


The son of an airman, Will shared some of his memories: "I grew up in a very military household. We had to put the hospital corners on our beds and all that stuff growing up so he was very, very specific about military discipline in the house."

Looks like that discipline did not cramp his ability to make people's day with just a smile.

Images: To view more photos, visit our Flickr page. 

* Video: Watch ABC's Good Morning America's feature from the event. 

Join the USO to Honor, Salute and Celebrate Our Troops and Their Families during our current campaign. Learn more today. 

(Photos by Mark Matson for the USO / Written and Produced by Christian Pelusi) 

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