Archives for category: USO

Pickler returned to the states last Wednesday (12/19) from what was her sixth USO tour overseas to perform for U.S. troops as part of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey’s annual USO holiday tour.

“It’s always different coming here this time of year,” Pickler said, prior to her performance at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on Dec. 16.

Other celebrities that joined her on the seven-day, four-country tour throughout the Middle East include  Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen of the Washington Nationals, Matt Hendricks of the Washington Capitals and comedian Iliza Shlesinger.

All participated in an array of hospital visits and USO meet and greets, each tailored to bring a touch of home to the servicemen and women making the biggest sacrifice. Stops included: Bagram Air Base and Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart in Germany; and a visit with Sailors stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, among other locations.

“[During] the holidays, everyone wants to be home with their families and loved ones. And I know it’s just as hard for [your] families back home, so they’re making a sacrifice as well. I just want to say thanks so much for all that you do, and thank you to your families as they make a huge sacrifice. This time of year is really hard so I hope that you know that we love you. The USO, all of us, we are praying for a safe return home for you all. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”


Aaron Tippin is back home in Tennessee for Christmas after spending Thanksgiving in Afghanistan, as part of a 10-day tour there.

He traveled with Stars for Stripes, a nonprofit organization.

“Once again, our guys and gals have demonstrated that they are the best and most professional warriors on the face of the planet!”

After his performance at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, Tippin performed push-ups as members of the 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, applied the honorary spurs to his boots. A tradition within the Army Cavalry, spurs are given to soldiers within the unit who have been to combat. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Corey Sparks.)

Did you know that it all started 21 years ago with Bob Hope? Aaron is the 1st country entertainer to travel with Bob Hope to the Persian Gulf to entertain our troops back in 1991. Tippin performed his famous song, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something.”


Toby Keith is on his ninth USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour. “My father was a veteran, and [in 2002] I wanted to go pay my respects and honor all the troops that were overseas fighting in different conflicts,” Toby tells The Boot of his very first Middle East tour. “I got over there and fell in love with it. It’s become part of my life now.”

Since that first trip, Toby has played for more than 159,000 troops and their families. He’ll add to that number on a 12-day USO tour covering three countries (with exact dates and locations kept secret for security reasons).

“It’s a wonderful geography lesson. It’s a wonderful history lesson. Not to mention getting to shake hands with heroes every single day you’re over there,” says Toby. “It also allows me to be the poster boy for the USO … to get other entertainers and people who have something to offer to go over there and support our troops. That’s the least I could do.”

>USO Tours are one of the many ways a country singer gives back to the working people who are such a big part of keeping the music strong. Playing for our fighting men and women is a privilege and an honor – and there is a definite rush about being in the line of fire, as the pictures of various USO Tours attest. But for Jack Ingram, who’s a hard-hitting performer with a thoughtful streak, when he decided it was his turn, he wanted to sing for the people nobody notices; that desire led him to Guantanamo Bay.

“The first night, we played on the side of a cliff overlooking the bay. There were 300 people, ranging from Officers with their families to enlisted kids who, literally, looked like they got on the wrong b us on their way to Freshman orientation at college,” Ingram says of the audience far from their homes on island most Americans will never visit. “The air was hot and humid, and the moon was full and rose over the back of the stage. It was beautiful, especially when I got them to sing ‘Goodnight Moon’ with me, and we dedicated it to all our family members not with us this there that evening.

“I signed autographs and posed for pictures for several hours for anyone who wanted one, and you get the sense of how much these soldiers miss their homes and what they give up to serve our country. Not for politics, but for the faith in what America stands for.”

Ingram played the Goat Locker, which is an officers’ club of sorts, “and it felt real intimate, like a coffee house gig. Funny how when people are really listening, they are always going inside the songs.

With days filled with base tours and going into the bay on viper boats, Ingram got to spend a lot of time talking to the men and women, many of whom are well beyond their first tour of duty, “about their everyday life, including their dreams of the future and fears of the present. And it really gives you perspective… especially coming into Easter and the spring.”

The final night. Ingram and his lean 3 piece band, played for the general population at GTMO (pronounced “GIT-mo”)’s community center with a raucous set that saw people up and dancing.

As Ingram says, “It felt like any Friday night in Anytown, U.S.A. with a bunch of kids and people looking for an escape from their every day problems – if every day problems mean dealing with known terrorists and prisoners who throw feces and urine at you while you are walking the block.”

“And you know, that’s the stuff we never think about… not enough… cause how can you? How can you know this stuff is out there? And it’s sad in a way that we live in a world like this, but it’s amazing to see the young people with the courage of their convictions, who are all over world doing these jobs that make such a difference for freedom in our world. It was certainly fun to play for them – it’s always fun, especially with audiences like those – but this was a special kind of honor, too.”

With “That’s A Man” just coming off the Top 15, Ingram’s definition of song just got a little sharper – and a little bit more compelling on a song that already spoke volumes to who he is at the core.

Thanks to Holly Gleason for the story.

People’s Eileen Finan broke the story: TK and his USO tour troupe encountered mortar fire while they were performing in Afganistan.

Keith, on an 18-show USO tour through the Persian Gulf, was right in the middle of his song “Weed With Willie” when mortar fire on the base interrupted him Thursday night.

“We all ran about 100 yards to a concrete bunker,” says Keith’s agent, Curt Motley, who is also on the USO tour. Keith, 46, and his band hunkered down with the soldiers in a bunker about an hour, signing autographs and posing for shots to pass the time.

Ask anyone who has spent quality time with him: Keith does this dangerous duty because of his tremendous respect and admiration for the job our troops are doing.