Country music star Toby Keith recently wrapped up a 10-day USO tour to Iraq and Afghanistan, including several small and remote forward-operating bases that rarely see stars of his magnitude. (One of Keith's concerts made headlines all over the world when it was interrupted by mortar fire!)
Just two weeks earlier, eight former NFL players, including Todd Blackledge, Kenny Johnson, and former all-pro standouts Chris Spielman and Mike McCrary, helped launch the first installment of "Operation Gridiron: Huddle with the Troops" in Iraq and Kuwait.
The ex-professionals held football clinics and coached military players on some of the finer points of the game.
Also among the first group of entertainers to kick off '08 in support of our military were rock bands Yellowcard and Third Day, both of which traveled to the Persian Gulf in January and mesmerized audiences with their high energy performances.
Actress Scarlett Johansson and country music stars Kix Brooks, and Neal McCoy also participated in USO tours and entertained service members stationed throughout the Gulf region.
Helping to raise troop morale around the world, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA deployed to Japan in February; they were followed by former 'American Idol' finalist Elliott Yamin, who entertained service members in Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
Actors Dave Annable and Minka Kelly joined forces, and met up with troops in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At the start of the month, the USO began a three-month stateside tour featuring actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. That tour wrapped up in mid-April following stops at military bases in SD, KY, CA and MO.
In March, San Diego Chargers' Luis Castillo, Chicago Bears' Tommie Harris and Carolina Panthers' Michael Rucker touched down in the Persian Gulf region on their first USO tour, and talked football with military personnel. Their trip was memorably chronicled by Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Peter King in his online blog. Meanwhile, Drew Brees and Billy Miller of the New Orleans Saints, and Donnie Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs signed autographs and posed for photos with troops in Japan. Actor James Reynolds and children's author/television host Trevor Romain also demonstrated their support by visiting military schoolchildren at Ft. Stewart, GA and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "Everybody Hates Chris" actress Tichina Arnold also traveled to the Pacific with the USO, where she toured numerous military posts, greeted fans and visited hundreds of troops and their families.
All told, the celebrity tours conducted during the first four months of the year have brought an incalculable morale boost to our men and women in uniform around the world. And much, much more is scheduled for the coming months.
These tours are made possible in large part by private donations from thousands of individuals who want to show their support for our troops. The men and women of our Armed Forces risk their lives - every day - for us.
Please help the USO fulfill our mission to support these magnificent Americans by making a donation of whatever you can afford today.
As Americans, we count on them.
They count on us. I hope we can count on you.
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