U.S. Troops' Service No Laughing Matter, Comedian Says
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Dec. 19, 2012 Each year around the holidays as it has for more than seven decades the USO provides overseas-deployed American troops with entertainment provided by talented fellow Americans.
Iliza Shlesinger, host of the CBS syndicated comedy dating show “Excused,” and the only female and youngest contestant ever to win NBC's “Last Comic Standing, entertains U.S. troops during a USO tour show at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
This year, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined by Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, his senior enlisted advisor, led another extraordinary group overseas to entertain the troops.
Iliza Shlesinger, host of the CBS syndicated television reality-based comedy dating competition show, “Excused,” and the youngest contestant to ever win NBC's “Last Comic Standing,” was among the group of entertainers and other celebrities in this year’s USO holiday tour.
“You never know what to expect,” Shlesinger said. “All I knew was that we were coming over to entertain the troops.”
Shlesinger said she was honored to be a part of this year’s USO tour.
“Everybody has been so nice, and so welcoming. “And the bases -- it's just been such an honor to tour them,” she said. “I would to go hell and back to entertain our troops.
“They do so much for us,” Shlesinger continued. “I don't care if it's on the moon, Mars or Afghanistan. I'll happily come here anytime to make the men and women of our military happy.”
The comedian described some of the unique opportunities she had, such as getting inside the cockpit of a military aircraft.
“On the flight over here from Kyrgyzstan, I got to sit in the front of the plane as we landed in Afghanistan,” she said.
And, Shlesinger said, everyone she met made her feel welcome.
“They've just been so gracious and cool about letting us experience everything, and seeing everything,” she said. “And just to see the [base] that you guys have set up here. Everybody is so nice, you forget that we're at war. The experience, in its entirety, has been amazing.”
Among the other celebrities joining Shlesinger on the tour were Washington Nationals Major League Baseball players Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen, Matt Hendricks of the Washington Capitals and country music singer Kellie Pickler.
USO President Sloan D. Gibson, and Shane Hudella, of “Defending the Blue Line,” an organization that donates hockey equipment to military families, accompanied the USO tour group.
Shlesinger called it “humbling” that service members are willing to risk their lives to protect the nation so she can tell jokes on stage.
“I mean, it's Christmas time, and everyone wants to be with their families,” Shlesinger said. “Especially when I see kids … that are like 17-years old that fly fighter planes, and give up their lives, in [some] cases. I think the [most] important thing to remember is you guys are not forgotten.”