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Ellen DeGeneres Honors Troops, Families on Holiday Show

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2004 – Comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres honored America's servicemembers today on her show, during which she presented $1.2 million in cruises to military families, aired messages from deployed troops, and plugged the Pentagon's new "America Supports You" program.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Military spouses pose for photos under a sign for the Ellen DeGeneres Show.The talk show host invited several hundred military spouses to her show that aired Nov. 23. DeGeneres paid for their bus fare to Los Angeles as well as daycare for their children. She also presented $1.2 million in cruises to military families, aired messages from deployed troops, and plugged thePentagon's new "America Supports You" program.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The show, filmed before a live studio audience of deployed troops' families, focused on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the nation's thanks for the sacrifices its men and women in uniform and their families are making.

DeGeneres and guest host Tom Hanks sent out hearty "hooahs" to the deployed troops and urged Americans to show their support in whatever way they choose. One way, she said, is to tap into the America Supports You Web site and join in one of the many efforts already under way or send a personal note of appreciation to the troops.

During the program, several members of the audience got treated to video clips of their loved ones in Southwest Asia sending holiday messages. Among troops featured were Sgt. Carmine Vuocolo, Sgt. 1st Class David Gant, Staff Sgt. Travis Surprise, Pfc. Mark Jones and Spc. Noah Hale.

Another clip showed DeGeneres and her army of volunteers packing care packages for the troops as part of the United Services Organization's Operation Care Package program.

The icing on the cake was DeGeneres' announcement that Celebrity Cruise Lines was contributing all-expense-paid cruises for four to everyone in the audience. Recipients can choose cruises to either Alaska or Mexico for up to 10 nights.

For Miranda Ellison from Camp Pendleton, Calif., the cruise will be the honeymoon she and her Marine husband, who returns from Iraq in June, never had. Gina Mahal, also from Camp Pendleton, said she feels "lucky and proud and happy for my husband that he gets this reward."

Other audience members said they were delighted by the expressions of support.

"I'm in tears. No words can describe how I feel," said Kathy Broehl from Camp Pendleton, whose husband will return from his deployment in four months. "It makes your heart burst, because you know people care."

"I just want to say, 'God, thank you for Ellen,'" said Zephyr Edgeington from Fort Irwin, Calif., whose husband is due home in June. "It means the world to us to get recognized for the work we do as spouses."

"This was totally amazing. I didn't think so many people cared about our troops and their wives," agreed Leah Bichlmeier, also from Fort Irwin. "Thank you, Ellen. I'll never forget it."

After the show, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber thanked DeGeneres for her support for the troops and presented her an America Supports You dog tag, which features the program's logo.

DeGeneres said she was happy to see military wives singing and dancing and having a great time on the show. It's exactly what she said she was hoping for.

In addition to its regular syndicated audience, the "Ellen" program will reach U.S. servicemembers and their families around the world. The program was aired on the American Forces Network, which is broadcast to servicemembers in 177 countries including Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as military ships at sea.

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