By the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs
The tour’s first stop: Værnes Air Station, Norway, where performers will bring a little bit of home to the Marines and sailors deployed there in support of NATO and U.S. European Command.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., President Dr. J.D. Crouch II and their spouses are leading the tour, which includes stops in Europe and the Middle East over the next seven days.
This year’s tour includes Olympian Shaun White, NCIS star Wilmer Valderrama, singer and television host Kellie Pickler, comedian Jessimae Peluso,“This Is Us” star Milo Ventimiglia, three-time CrossFit champion Mat Fraser and DJ J.Dayz.
“I’ve always wanted to do something with our service members, so when the USO and Gen. Dunford invited me to spend the holidays with them, I immediately jumped at the opportunity,” White said.
“What they do every day is an inspiration to me, and I can’t wait to tell them face-to-face just how much I appreciate them.”
All USO performers volunteered to travel over the holidays to participate in variety-style shows and troop engagements to show service members that America remembers them and values their service.
“I feel privileged to go on now my 7th tour paying respect to our men and women,” Valderrama said.
“As an American, it has been one of the proudest moments of my career to be able to bring a little piece of home to the troops and to personally say thank you.”
The USO holiday tour was started in 2003 by then-chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers to express appreciation to deployed service members during the holidays.
This is Dunford’s fifth USO tour since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
“While we can’t bring our troops home for the holidays, we can bring a bit of home to them – that’s what the USO holiday tour is all about,” Dunford said.
About 190,000 service members will be away from home this holiday season, ashore in places such as South Korea, Iraq, Germany and Japan, and aboard ships in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.
In addition to the USO tour visiting select worldwide locations, troops celebrating the holidays far from home will be well-fed. Overseas troops have been provided with traditional American Christmas dinners since World War II, no matter where they are stationed or deployed.
During the 2017 Christmas season, the Defense Logistics Agency served up:
- Pounds of turkey: 112,092
- Pounds of beef: 59,430
- Pounds of ham: 38,430
- Pounds of shrimp: 29,304
- Cases of cookies: 690
- Assorted cakes and pies: 16,002
- Pounds of marshmallows: 6,564
- Gallons of juice: 3,743
- Gallons of eggnog: 2,145
This year, agency officials said they plan to send even more food. Additionally, during the 2018 holidays, the U.S. Postal Service said it expects to ship about 16 million pounds of mail to deployed service members and other Defense Department employees.
-This story first appeared on USO.org in 2018. It has been unpdated in November 2019.
More from the USO
Nov 15, 2019
Backstage at the USO Honors Service Members and Military Supporters
The USO brought a night of laughter and entertainment to service members and supporters in Washington, D.C., at "Backstage at the USO," a variety show, starring actor Wilmer Valderrama, comedian Paula Poundstone and country star Brantley Gilbert.
Nov 14, 2019
Forward-Deployed Marines in Afghanistan Connect With Their Kids Through the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program
Thanks to the USO Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program there's one family tradition that deployed service members can still continue, no matter where they are in the world--reading bedtime stories.