Cover Story: The USO's "Hope and Freedom Tour 2005" Brings Cheer to Troops in the Persian Gulf

Cowboy Cheerleaders

WASHINGTON – Some of our Nation's best-known celebrities are off to visit the troops this holiday season, bringing good cheer, laughs, and a taste of home when they need it most.

The United Service Organizations (USO) announced its "Hope and Freedom Tour 2005" throughout the Gulf region. During the tour, the celebrities will perform shows; visit with troops, sign autographs and tour military facilities at a number of locations in the region.

Joining the tour will be Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. He serves as the Army Chief of Staff's personal advisor on all enlisted-related matters, particularly in areas affecting soldier training and quality of life. Last year, Preston and a group of celebrities traveled to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan to visit service members during the holidays.

Tour participants include:

  • Comedian and best-selling author Al Franken, hosts daily radio talk-show on Air America Radio;
  • Perennial favorites, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders participating on their 58th USO tour; The Cheerleaders will also be visiting Korea to visit troops there later this month as well.
  • Country singer Mark Wills, earned Billboard's number one "Most Played Song in 2003" with "19 Something";
  • Hip-hop trio Souljahz, toured with No Doubt, Ashanti and Erykha Badu;
  • Country vocalist Craig Morgan, recorded "Redneck Yacht Club," which reached number two on Billboard's country chart;
  • Former Army Ranger and country singer Keni Thomas, featured in the movie "Sweet Home Alabama;" and
  • The U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," performed for service members stationed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan in December 2004.

This tour continues the USO tradition of bringing entertainment to troops serving far from home, especially during the holidays. Several celebrities and bands have made trips for the USO so far this year, including Toby Keith, Charles Barkley, Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, Drowning Pool, Gary Sinise, Rascal Flatts and Adema.

Wrestlers in Afghanistan
This announcement comes on the heels of another great set of entertainers traveling overseas to support the troops.

World Wrestling Entertainment Superstars and Chairman Vince McMahon

World Wrestling Entertainment Superstars and Chairman Vince McMahon took Monday Night RAW to U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan this past week (December 7 – 9). Hosted by Armed Forces Entertainment, the tour marks the third holiday "Tribute to the Troops" WWE has produced since 2003. The tour and a live-to-tape performance of RAW in Afghanistan will be presented as a WWE RAW holiday special to air on USA Network on December 19 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).

"The continued support from Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment, especially the live shows during the holidays, gives our military personnel serving overseas something to look forward to, taking their mind off combat duties," said Art Myers, Director of Air Force Services, who oversees Armed Forces Entertainment.

"It is important to us that we reach as many of the troops as we can, not only to entertain them, but thank them for their service to our country," said WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. "Going back on tour with Armed Forces Entertainment means we have another opportunity to tell the stories of the significant sacrifices our men and women in uniform are making for our freedom and the freedom of others. In particular, we are excited to be visiting and performing for the first time for our 'forgotten heroes' in Afghanistan who continue to risk their lives in the effort to establish a strong, free Afghanistan."

For nearly 65 years, the USO (United Service Organizations) has been providing morale, welfare and recreational services to U.S. military personnel and their families. The USO is a nonprofit, charitable organization, relying on the generosity of the American people to support its programs and services. The USO is supported by World Partners, AT&T Corporation, Avon Products, Inc., BAE SYSTEMS, Bass Pro Shops, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Clear Channel Communications, The Coca-Cola Company, Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., Lockheed Martin Corporation, Military Channel, National Football League, S&K Sales Company and TriWest Healthcare Alliance. Other corporate donors, including the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign (CFC-0600), have joined thousands of individual donors to support the USO. For more information on the USO, please visit our Web site at www.uso.org

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