Just days before Christmas, most Americans were rushing from malls to grocery stores, finishing up the last of their holiday shopping and getting ready to host family and friends at home. George Lopez, however, was somewhere in the middle of the Arabian Sea, landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
It was the award-winning comedian and actor’s first USO tour but, after his experience of performing for sailors out to sea on the USS Harry S. Truman, he promises that it will not be his last. Lopez happily provided service members with some laughs just before the holidays this past December, but he was struck by seeing firsthand what an immense sacrifice our military makes every day.
“I don’t think it really dawns on anybody who lives in America – because of your own lives and your own families, or obligations or work – that the military protects us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Lopez said.
“So when you realize that in the middle of the ocean on a three-hour plane ride from Bahrain, that there’s this aircraft carrier and everyone on it has a job to do … [you realize] that those are the most important people to you, to your family, to your children and to the safety of your children.”
Although this was Lopez’s first USO entertainment tour, it was not his first experience with the military or supporting service members.
Lopez has made several visits to injured, ill and wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center over the years, which he said has had a profound impact on him.
Lopez also grew up with several friends who joined the Navy, which made his visit to the USS Harry S. Truman, just days before Christmas, all the more eye-opening. He was amazed by how each person on the aircraft carrier had a role and a job to do – and how they did so, for hours on-end, all while in life-risking situations.
“It hadn’t really dawned on me,” Lopez said. “And so when I got back, I called those guys from high school and I said ‘Hey man, I didn’t know you guys did all of this when you were out there and you served.’ … I don’t think anybody thinks about that because we don’t see it. On the news, you see the results of military work, but never the actual day-to-day.”
Lopez performed a comedy set for those abroad the USS Harry S. Truman in the hangar of the aircraft carrier, alongside a small band of Navy musicians. Lopez was impressed by how respectful the crowd was, in comparison to his normal audiences, and most importantly by the camaraderie of the service members present.
“I think civilians could learn a lot from the military not only in respect, but also in honor and valor and integrity,” he said.
Beyond his performance, Lopez also got a tour of the carrier and met with sailors one-on-one. He had a memorable experience performing for the service members deployed far from loved ones during the holiday season and is already looking forward to his next opportunity to join a USO tour.
“No schedule is too important to not carve out a little bit of time for the people who allow you to do what you do, and allow you to have the careers that we have,” Lopez said, explaining the importance of entertainers participating on USO tours.
“Every entertainer should take part in the USO … It’s a special connection that they have with you as an entertainer, but you have to remember that it’s also a connection you have with them. You should never forget that. As entertainers, our job is to entertain, and there are no people more deserving of entertainment than the people who serve our country.”
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