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Ben McKenzie, Johnny Galecki (USO Photo by Michael Clifton)
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PHOTOS: 'Southland' Star Ben McKenzie Visits Bases in Japan

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Actor Ben McKenzie, star of TNT’s police drama “Southland,” was part of a Warner Brothers troupe of television entertainers that visited nine military bases during a USO tour to Japan on May 4-12.

It was McKenzie’s first USO tour and the experience left an indelible mark on the ex-"The O.C" heartthrob and Austin, Texas, native.

"My grandfather was in the Navy and was out here in the Pacific and my grandmother also performed in several USO shows in WWII and with my grandfather's passing last year it meant a lot to me to come out here and meet the troops to thank them for their service to our country," he said.

The group included: film and fellow "Southland" star Regina King; “Southland” and HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” actor Michael Cudlitz; CBS’s “The Big Band Theory” star Johnny Galecki and “The Big Band Theory” executive producer Steven Molaro.

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From left to right, Galecki, Molaro, Cudlitz, McKenzie and King pose for a photo with troops at Camp Shield in Okinawa, Japan on May 5. The tour consisted of a series of USO "meet and greets," base visits and unit tours.

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McKenzie and King pose for a photo at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, with U. S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Virginia Henderson (center left) from Sumter, S.C. and Tech Sgt. Sarah Thomas from Bloomington, Ind., on May 6.

McKenzie said: "We were greeted with incredible kindness and appreciation at every turn. I think the thing that impressed me the most was the very clear personal sacrifice each man and woman makes to serve our country. It's very inspiring."

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McKenzie suits up with troops at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan.

"I jumped at the chance to be a part of this USO tour," he said. "Getting the opportunity to spend time with our troops and their families in Japan … [it] is such a privilege."

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McKenzie, left, and Galecki hop in the cockpit of a U. S. Marine Corps CH-46 helicopter on May 7.

"It just feels good to shake a few hands, take a few pictures, look people in the eye and say from the bottom of my heart 'Thank you,'" McKenzie said. “It seems like the least we could do. It was a honor to be asked to go on the tour and I hope I can do many more over the years."

* See more images from the tour of our Flickr site. 

(USO photos by Michael Clifton / Produced by Christian Pelusi) 

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