By Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Home. A place we all have, a place that is each entirely our own. To some a city, a state, to others a state of mind. Home is where the heart is, family, friends, community. It is familiarity. Home is the comfort of knowing the inner intricacies of everything around you. Home has a feel, a smell, an aura that exudes peace of mind. When away from home, there are a million things that will remind you exactly what you miss about it.
An unfortunate reality is homes are unique. They are not easily recreated. A truth known all too well for those who serve in the U.S. military. With that difficulty in mind, the USO’s mission of strengthening America’s service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service can make all the difference.
In an effort to bring family, home and country to service members stationed overseas, the USO Spring Tour kicked off April 22 at Yokota Air Base, Japan, before stops at military bases in South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and Spain.
The tour, hosted by Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, included performances by former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, country music artist and Army veteran Craig Morgan, celebrity chef and TV host Robert Irvine, UFC fighters Paige VanZant and Max Holloway and Richard “Rip” Hamilton, a retired NBA All-Star.
“As a veteran, I can tell you what the USO does to keep service members connected to family, home and country is incredibly important,” said Morgan, before embarking on his 10th USO tour. “It’s why I want to work with the USO as a Force Behind The ForcesSM to bring a little bit of home to service members overseas.”
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With the help of some of our country’s biggest stars, the USO is able to show support through the staging of comedy shows, concerts, meet-and-greets, unit visits and other interactive events for service members and their families while promoting stability throughout the world in both stateside and overseas locations.
“Entertainment tours like the one being hosted by General Selva are just one of the many ways we work to express our appreciation and to strengthen the service member’s connection to the things they hold so dear,” USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II said in a release.
Thanking Our American Troops Abroad
Bringing that support to the ends of the Earth would not be possible without the support from the stars donating their time for tours, but the help of all of the individuals who volunteer their time to help out at USO centers around the globe.
“This tour and the USO’s operation on a day-to-day basis are first and foremost about thanking the men and women in uniform and their families for what they do every day for our nation,” said Kiyana Kemp, USO Yokota center manager. “Without the help of our volunteers we would not be able to show the support or provide the services we do.”
The stars and individuals who volunteer their time to the USO are a prime example of what the USO hopes to achieve with its Force Behind the Forces campaign.
“The Force Behind the Forces campaign encourages Americans to demonstrate their appreciation for and support of those who selflessly serve our nation,” Kemp said.
In a release, Selva said he sleeps soundly at night because of the more than 2 million men and women in uniform.
“They are the defenders of everything this country holds dear, and this USO tour is first and foremost about thanking them and their families for what they do every day for our nation.”
Country musician and Army veteran Craig Morgan poses for a photo with a service member. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann
NBA legend Richard “Rip” Hamilton, comedian Jon Stewart and UFC fighter Max “Blessed” Holloway pose for a photo with a UH-1 Huey helicopter aircrew after a helicopter tour of Tokyo from Yokota Air Base, Japan. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann
Celebrity chef and TV host Robert Irvine poses for a photo with a service member. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann
UFC fighter Paige VanZant poses for a photo with a service member. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann
Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart talks to parents of a service member during an Operation Birthday Cake at a USO center in South Korea. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann
UFC champion Max Holloway faces off with one of his young fans at a USO show at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann
NBA legend Richard Hamilton talks to troops during the USO Spring Tour stop in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann
Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart performs for troops during the USO Spring Tour in April. Army photo by Sgt. James McCann