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America Supports You: Group Provides Stars for Stripes

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2007 – Stars for Stripes knows troops deployed to remote locations don’t have the luxury of heading out to their favorite venue to take in a concert, so it takes the concerts to them.

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From left: Army Command Sgt. Maj. William M. Johnson, Jim McMahon, Kevin Butler, Army Col. Jeffrey Bannister, Karri Turner and Dave Price pose for a photo in Iraq. The civilian celebrities entertained servicemembers during a Stars for Stripes tour in December 2006. Bannister is commander of the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Johnson is his senior enlisted advisor. Courtesy photo
  

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“Stars for Stripes’ mission is to take celebrity - with the emphasis on celebrity - entertainment to remote areas,” Judy Seale, the organization’s founder, said. “That’s why I focus more on Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea, because those seem to have the most remote locations.”

Stars for Stripes is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.

Seale started providing entertainment to troops deployed overseas after a 1991 New Year’s Eve show in Iceland with United Services Organization, Seal said.

“It takes such a little bit of effort on our part to go say, ‘Thank you,’” she said. “So I never stopped.”

Since its official beginning in 2003, Stars for Stripes has conducted at least 23 tours to remote and isolated military bases. And Seale said she gets the same response from the troops every time.

“They thank us too much,” she said. “It’s embarrassing, because we’re there to thank them.”

The troops say Seale and her tours don’t have to be there, but she disagrees.

“They believe in what they’re doing (and say) we didn’t have to come over there,” she said. “My response is, ‘Yes we did. As long as you’re here we do have to come over here because you need to be told that America supports you and we thank you.’”

As for the entertainers, which have included Chely Wright, Craig Morgan, Trick Pony and many others, Seale said participating in one of Stars for Stripes’ tours has a positive impact on their lives. It’s something she said can’t be explained before the trips.

When it comes to finding personalities to make up a tour, Seale often draws on her America Supports You membership.

“It’s connections when I need somebody,” she said. “And not a day goes by that I don’t refer somebody to (The America Supports You) Web site because I get so many e-mails from people who obviously read my Web site but don’t understand what I’m doing.”

When they ask her about sending a care package or whether her organization can help get items to a particular overseas military installation, she has a simple response: “Go to (America Supports You).”

But when she can help, she requests the name of the installation and works to take a show there, she said.

“If there’s no security concerns … then we get to go there and I give the person a hug and I take a picture with them and I e-mail it back to them,” Seale said. “I’ve done that probably more than a dozen times.”

These trips to out-of-the-way installations have helped nurture a partnership with another America Supports You member, SemperComm, a non-profit group that provides remote military bases with free communications and entertainment equipment, software and services.

“Through my partnership with SemperComm, they look at my … journals. T hey look at those and go, ‘Oh, there’s a base we could adopt and get communications equipment in the field,’” Seale said.

Sometimes SemperComm finds a camp that rarely gets any entertainment and lets Seale know so she can try to organize a tour at that installation, she said.

The nation’s commitments are many, and that load is shouldered by a proud and selfless few, Seale wrote on her Web site.

“We cannot repay their sacrifices or truly compensate them for their dedication,” she wrote. “We can, however, honor them with a glimpse of life back home, with entertainment and with our mere presence, if only for a short while.”

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Related Sites:
America Supports You
Stars for Stripes

Click photo for screen-resolution imageGeneral Raymond Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, presents country music star Chely Wright with a coin and certificate of appreciation in Baghdad in February 2007. Wright has toured several to the Middle East with Stars for Stripes several times. Courtesy photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCountry music star Aaron Tippin hams for the camera while on a Stars for Stripes tour in Afghanistan during the 2006 Thanksgiving holiday. Courtesy photo  
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