By Danielle DeSimone
For decades, he was the man with all the answers. But to our nation’s service members, he was the man willing to travel across the globe to brighten their days and deliver just a small piece of home when they were the farthest from it.
Alex Trebek – the award-winning host of the television game show “Jeopardy!” – was a longtime supporter of the USO and our men and women in uniform. As the military community mourns Trebek’s recent passing on November 8, 2020, after a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer, thousands of service members and military families will remember Trebek not only for his time on-screen, but for his time alongside them as well.
Appearing on millions of television screens across the United States almost every evening on “Jeopardy!” made Trebek a household name and an American cultural icon, which is why it was so impactful when he volunteered his time to participate on USO tours, particularly when he visited service members and their families overseas.
Trebek volunteered with the USO for more than 30 years, with his first USO tour in 1987. He would go on to participate in a total of 13 USO tours that took him to military installations all around the world, including South Korea, Iceland, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Philippines, among others. On many of these tours, Trebek met with both service members and military families alike, boosting morale within U.S. military communities abroad.
As such a well-known figure in American television, his presence was met with excitement at every base, but especially among those deployed or stationed in remote locations. For these service members, military spouses and military children, here was a piece of home: Alex Trebek – not just on their television screens, but in-person, thousands of miles away from the U.S., shaking their hands to thank them for their service.
On some tours, Trebek actively searched for potential contestants to audition for “Jeopardy!”’s “Salute to the Military”-themed week. When service members questioned whether they were qualified or smart enough to even audition, Trebek was always unwavering in his belief in their abilities.
“I’ll tell you if you are smart enough,” he said in response to one doubtful contestant, according to a 2012 Stars & Stripes article.
It was this belief in our nation’s military and his commitment to supporting them that made Trebek such an incredible USO tour veteran.
“I’ve had a great time every time I’ve been away with the USO,” Trebek said at a 2016 USO event. “There’s nothing I can say that would really measure up to the gratitude I feel, and most of America feels, for our military men and women.”
Trebek hosted “Jeopardy!” for more than 37 years, appearing in more than 8,000 episodes in the syndicated show. In that time, he also touched the lives of thousands of America’s service members and military families, delivering a little bit of home everywhere he went.
From the bedsides of our injured soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, to the floor of an elementary school, surrounded by a crowd of military children, to the cockpit of an F/A-18 Super Hornet in Japan, Trebek was ready and willing to go the distance and ensure our military knew that they were never forgotten, and always supported.
His generosity, kindness and dedication to the military community will always be remembered.
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