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USO Tour Enables Participant to Reunite with Deployed Brother

By Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh
Joint Staff Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2013 – Engines off? Check. Wheels chocked? Check. American Idol star deplaning, screaming and running to meet her brother on the flight line at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan? Check.

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American Idol Season 3 star Diana DeGarmo, left, rushes to hug her brother, Army Maj. David Evans, on the tarmac at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, March 1. DeGarmo was part of a team of athletes and performers travelling on the USO Spring Troop Visit with Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Mary. DOD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh
  

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When the phrase, “It’s a small world,” is muttered around military members, it’s usually met with the reply, “It’s a small military.” The truth of that sentiment can be found by merely looking at two of the nine stops made during the 2013 USO Spring Troop Visit, hosted by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.

When she found out the USO Spring Troop Visit was not going to Kandahar Air Field this year, American Idol star, Diana DeGarmo was a little upset for two reasons. First, even though she knew it wasn’t feasible, she hoped to see every deployed service member in the country. Second, because one of those deployed service members was her brother Army Maj. David Evans, currently deployed to Kandahar.

“I was really excited when I was told there was a chance David might make it to Bagram Air Base, ... but Bagram came and went and he was unable to get there,” said Degarmo, whose fiancé Ace Young, another American Idol star, was also on the tour. “I was truly disappointed, but still did the best I could at the show for those troops who were there.”

While DeGarmo was unaware of the logistical problems preventing her brother from getting from Kandahar to Bagram, she had understood there was a chance he wouldn’t be able to make it. Those logistical issues were easily overcome, however, in getting to Camp Bastion -- something she wasn’t expecting. So, after landing on the tarmac at Camp Bastion, DeGarmo and the other athletes and performers walked down the steps of the C-17 Globemaster III to their greeting party, which included her brother.

“We kept the fact that I was able to get here to Bastion on the down low,” joked Evans, an engineer at Kandahar. “Maj. [Brandon] Anderson [aide de camp to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and I emailed back and forth. He said the tour was coming through and asked if I could get to Bastion. I immediately said, ‘No problem, when?’ ”

Anderson had one more request though.

“I asked Maj. Evans if he knew my cousin, who is also an engineer in Kandahar,” he said.

Not only did Evans know Army 1st Lt. Mark Anderson, but the California Polytechnic State University grad worked for him. Evans said he made one call, got the right person and together the two engineers made their way to meet family.

“She [DeGarmo] had no idea I’d be here ...,” said Evans. “I could tell too, because she ran to me as soon as she saw me and gave me a huge hug after she let out a pretty loud scream.”

There was no loud scream involved when the Anderson cousins joined up -- just a strong hug and a request for a photo together.

“It’s a great surprise to be able to see him here,” said the lieutenant, who added, “This is a great bit of a homecoming and I was able to get my picture with Peyton Manning -- so you can’t beat this.”

The cousins, who hadn’t seen each other in about a year, took advantage of the time they had to catch up on family, their interests and the Army.

“For us, the Army is a family business,” said Maj. Anderson, who accompanied Winnefeld on the five-country, nine-stop tour. “We took the time we had and talked about how our fathers and other family members are doing and about a passion we both share, [University of] Oregon football,” continued the Oregon alum. “It’s just been great. This is his first tour, so I was able to give him some advice on deployments and the Army in general. As a bonus, I was able to introduce him to the vice chairman, the first four-star officer he’s ever met.”

For Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Fuhrmann, getting to see a general officer is as easy as visiting his brother-in-law. He was able to meet up with his brother-in-law, Air Force Brig. Gen. Joe Guastella, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, at Bagram Air Base. Furhmann was one of the pilots responsible for transporting the talent and support crews on the USO tour.

“We didn’t have much time together,” Furhmann said. “But when I landed we were able to see each other and got to grab a quick photo with Peyton Manning.”

The troop visit, which also included NFL players Vincent Jackson and Austin Collie; Indianapolis Colts quarterback coach Clyde Christensen and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Cassie Trammell and Jackie Bob, began Feb. 25 with a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and ended March 2 after stops in Spain, Italy, Djibouti and Afghanistan. 

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Special: Travels With Winnefeld

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy 1st Lt. Mark Anderson, left, currently deployed to Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, poses for a photo with his cousin, Army Maj. Brandon Anderson, aide de camp for the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. Maj. Anderson came to Afghanistan with celebrities on the USO Spring Troop Visit while Lt. Anderson was able to travel from Kandahar to Camp Leatherneck to see his cousin. DOD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDenver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, center, poses for a photo Friday with Air Force Brig. Gen. Joe Guastella, 455th Wing Commander, left, and Lt. Col. Mark Furhmann, 437th Airlift Wing, as part of the USO Spring Troop Visit hosted by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. The gathering marked a family reunion, as Guastella, deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, is the brother-in-law of Furhmann, one of the USO C-17 Globemaster III pilots. DOD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh  
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