Joint Chiefs Chairman Leads USO Troupe to Kuwait
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait, Dec. 13, 2004 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today thanked the men and women here who are readying to go to Iraq by bringing a world-class United Service Organizations tour to entertain them.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers thanked servicemembers here and at nearby Ali Al Salem Air Base for their service in the region. The chairman is touring the region speaking with troops and introducing actor-comedians Robin Williams and Blake Clark, football hall-of-famer John Elway and model-sportscaster Leeann Tweeden.
The celebrities donate their time and talents, and the military handles the logistics of getting the performers to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Myers began the program by thanking the men and women and their families for the sacrifices they make to take on terrorism. He also thanked the Kuwaiti government and military for the support they have provided and continue to provide American troops. "We couldn't do what we have done in the region without our friends and allies, the Kuwaitis," Myers said,
Also at the USO event were soldiers and airmen from Korea and Japan. Myers welcomed them and thanked them for their help in rebuilding Iraq and making the country a safer place.
Any worries that the Japanese and Korean servicemembers would not understand the show were immediately dispelled when Tweeden took the stage to thunderous cheers that knew no language barrier. She introduced Clark, who served as a platoon leader during the Vietnam War. Clark, perhaps best known as Harry the Hardware Guy on "Home Improvement," soon had the troops eating out of his hand as he regaled them with stories of his life growing up in Georgia.
Following Clark, former Denver Broncos quarterback Elway took the stage. He told the servicemembers that he wasn't pretty or funny, "but I can still chuck a football," and then proceeded to fire souvenir footballs to the troops.
Williams then took the stage. Williams, on his third USO tour to the region, excels in improvisational comedy and riffed on unit numbers, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Saddam Hussein, armor plates and many other subjects.
Following the show, Myers and the celebrities spoke with the troops, signed autographs and posed for pictures.
The show is the culmination of a year's worth of work, said Edward A. Powell, USO's president and chief executive officer. Coordinating talent and getting the logistics in place is the major challenge for both the USO and the military. But the payoff is worth it, he said.
"Look at the faces and you know this is worth it," Powell said. "Getting the response from the servicemembers and letting them know that Americans think of them constantly is important.
"We connect America's heart to its men and women in the service," he continued. "If we ever let that very important connection break, fray or otherwise be damaged, then we'll have a serious problem. It's important for the people out here to understand the people back home support them and there is an absolute connection."