News: The Sergeant Major of the Army Hope & Freedom USO Tour
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston and an ensemble of entertainers stopped here to perform the 2007 Hope & Freedom USO Tour for troops December 12 to 14.
With Kuwait as the first of several stops, the 14-day tour spans through Southwest Asia and includes performances by country musicians Darryl Worley and Keni Thomas, comedians Sheryl Underwood and Vince Morris, sports commentator Leeann Tweeden, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own."
The SMA Hope & Freedom USO Tour entertained not only the Army, but the joint team of Third Army/U.S. Army Central which is made up of Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Department of the Defense civilians who accomplish the mission and earn the right to call themselves "Patton's Own."
Preston opened to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 5,000 emphasizing that these performers volunteered their own time to travel on this USO tour to entertain all the troops.
"On behalf of the chief of staff of the Army [Gen. George W. Casey Jr.], the secretary of the Army [Pete Geren] and all the senior leaders back in the Pentagon, we are very, very proud of the work and effort over here that's being done by all the Soldiers and at the same time very proud of the sacrifices they make this very important time of the year," said Preston.
Tweeden, who hosted the show, has participated in 10 USO tours.
"The very first USO tour I did was in July 2002," Tweeden said. "I got a call one day and couldn't believe my ears. I said yes then called my dad. After hearing his stories of meeting Raquel Welsh while he was stationed in Vietnam, I felt honored that maybe I could be my generation's Raquel Welch ... not that I'm a Raquel Welch, but I could be somebody's Raquel Welch."
Worley, an avid supporter of the U.S. military, said he tours regularly with the USO and continues to write patriotic songs America and the fight for freedom because he appreciates the troops and thinks it's important to show his support.
"I know you haven't forgotten," Worley said addressing the audience. "Things are changing and you guys have made a difference and we love you for it!"
Worley proudly shouted to the crowd that "I'm an American...I'm so thankful, I'm thankful for you guys," he stated.
Thomas, a former U.S. Army Ranger and recipient of the Bronze Star Medal for Valor during the battle of Mogadishu said, "[Now] instead of carrying an M-4 carbine I carry a Gibson. There's nothing like it. Giving thanks ... and performing songs for those who sacrifice their lives."
Since the USO's inception in 1941, thousands of celebrities have lent their time and talents, traveling to military bases around the world to entertain the troops.
During his tour, Preston and the entertainers will visit troops deployed throughout the Third Army/U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.