Roker, Leno and Team of Celebrities Bring Laughs to Troops in Afghanistan on NBC’s “Today”

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Editor’s note: Tune in to Wednesday’s edition of NBC’s “Today” to see the highlights of the “Today”/USO Comedy Tour stage show put on exclusively for troops at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Even in a war zone, Jay Leno can get a laugh.

“Afghanistan looks like Van Nuys but with less gunfire,” the former host of “The Tonight Show” cracked during one of several “Today” live shots from Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Al Roker — a co-host of NBC’s long-running morning show – brought Leno, comedians Craig Robinson and Iliza Shlesinger and musician Kevin Eubanks to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, for the “Today”/USO Comedy Tour to entertain American troops. The tour is part of the Shine A Light series on “Today.”

Roker is also raising money for the USO through Crowdrise as part of the Shine A Light effort.

“The USO brings entertainment and a bit of levity to a very stressful situation,” Shlesinger said during a “Today” segment. “[J]ust to get a chance to share this with [troops] for just a couple minutes, it’s such an honor.”

While the entertainers did a series of live segments on Wednesday’s broadcast, the highlights of their comedy/variety show for the troops at Bagram will be rebroadcast on NBC on Oct. 7.

“It’s been overwhelming just to be able to look the soldiers in the eye and say thank you to them,” Robinson said. “And they’ve been so grateful that we’re here. It’s really crazy.”

Voice Avenue Supports Troops and the USO

The singing group Voice Avenue, who are finalist on the NBC show “Sing-Off” and who are supporting the USO’s mission with proceeds from their song “Wishing on a Chrismas Star” performed to a capacity crowd of more than 3,000 at Starthmore Concert Hall in Bethesda, MD last night along with Michael W. Smith.

The group told the audience about their love for our troops and encoured evenryone to support the USO.

Yesterday they were moved at witnessing the changing of the guard and wreath laying at Arlington National Cenmetary yesterday. Afterwards they spent time thanking the Soldiers who guard the Tomb and who oversee the burial of our honored heroes.

Last week following their concert in Dallas they visited the USO at DFW and performed for troops and thanked them for their service.

Later this week Voice Avenue will be in Cincinnati, St Louis and Hosuton where local NBC affilaites will have them on to promote the USO and where they will visit USO Centers.

For a video of Voice Avenue on FOX 5 DC discussing supporting the troops and the USO, click here.

“Wishing on a Chrismas Star”

Voice Avenue Homepage

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Operation Star One

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Ride 2 Recovery on NBC Nightly News

After gathering for a group photo on Day Five, the cyclists pushed off from Pismo Beach and headed south for Solvang. The 70-mile ride culminated in a concert for the wounded warriors and 900 others, all of whom were entertained by Dennis Miller and Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik. (Photo courtesy of Ride 2 Recovery)

Our friends over at Ride 2 Recovery recently completed their 7-day “Golden State Challenge.”  Approximately 200 cyclists – many wounded warriors – made the 463-mile road trip from San Francisco to Santa Monica in order to improve the health and wellness of injured veterans by providing a life changing experience that can impact their lives forever.

“There were so many points where I wanted to quit, but you see the person next to you or in front of you and they are pushing you, they are handing you water … they don’t let you quit,” Percy Banks, a Van Nuys resident and Navy veteran, told the Los Angeles Daily News.

“You just get this great feeling when you’re riding with your fellow veterans, you’re relaxing on your bike with the scenery … everybody is talking and telling stories,” Adam Volchok said in the same interview.

Volchok, an Army medic who was stationed in Afghanistan from 2002 through 2003, was one of more than 200 injured military veterans who participated in the ride that took cyclists from the coast of San Francisco to Santa Monica in seven days.

Sporting slightly sun-burned cheeks, Volchok admitted the ride presented him with one of the biggest challenges he’d ever had, especially as he tried to make his way through the hills of Big Sur during a 93-mile leg of the ride.

But the 30-year-old said as he neared the end of the ride, he felt like he could go for another 60 miles.  “This was a great way to end this amazing, challenging, inspiring ride,” said Chatsworth resident Adam Volchok.

The “Golden State Challenge” was featured NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams a few days ago.  Check it out!

Dinner, Magic, Concerts…and Minute to Win It!

We have a lot going on at our USO Centers across the country and we wanted to let you know about some opportunities!

Tonight, USO of Metropolitan Washington invites wounded warriors, active duty military, and family members to “Anything is Possible” with Giovanni Livera!  Attendees will enjoy a delicious pasta dinner and an evening of astonishment with this talented and inspiring magician.

The event will take place at the Old Red Cross Building, #41, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  Dinner is served at 6pm and the performance begins at 7pm.  For additional information contact Meghan Hardgrove at 703-696-0717

USO of New England is proud to offer two great late summer concerts for service members: Get your tickets to Ozzfest and The Jonas Brothers today!

Ozzfest features Motley Crue, Halford, Devildriver, Nonpoint, Black Label Society, Drowing Pool and more and takes place on Tuesday, August 24th at 1:00PM at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA. Parking lots open 10:30AM, Doors 12:00PM.  Active duty and reserve can obtain 6 tickets maximum by using USO of New England’s online ticketeting system.  Tickets must be picked up at the Comcast Center Will-Call Ticket Window with military ID when you arrive.

Active and reserve military can also get up to 4 tickets  to see Jonas Brothers with Demi Lovato in concert on Thursday, August 26th at 7:00PM at the Comcast Center.  Parking lots open 4:30PM, Doors 6:00PM.  Tickets must be ordered at the USO online ticket system and picked up at the Comcast Will Call Ticket Window with military ID when you arrive.  Get your tickets today to two of summer’s hottest shows!

If you’re not in the DC or MA areas, don’t worry!  We still have some fun in store for you, because tonight on Minute to Win It,  Miss USA Kristen Dalton will be playing for…the USO!

This week the show is featuring “The Girls of Summer.” For three nights starting Monday, brains, beauty, and skills will clash head to head on Minute to Win It.  Check out the preview below and be sure to cheer on Miss USA tonight!


Warrior Games Wrap Up, but Their Impact Remains

Despite the competition, sailor and soldier refused to leave a fellow female soldier behind, crossing the finish line together at the 2010 Warrior Games. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/theUSO)

Competition may be over for the nearly 200 athletes who took part in the inaugural Warrior Games in Colorado, but their determined spirits continue to inspire.  From archery to swimming, basketball to volleyball, cycling to track and field, these athletes – representing all five branches of the military – showed that no injury or disability could diminish the desire to compete and succeed on the playing field and off.

And while rivalries among the branches were strong, a common sense of camaraderie pervaded every moment of the Games.  “Certainly, there were teams out there fighting for their colors, but I notice in every circumstance, when the competition ended, there were arms around each other,” Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the troops. “It was about how we competed as a team.”

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hathorne accepts the Ultimate Champion award at the Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo. May 14, 2010. Hathorne scored two gold medals and a bronze at the games earning him the top honors. (DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III)

Here at the USO, we could not be more proud of these games and the athletes who competed to admirably.  And with talk of the second annual Warrior Games already underway, we’re excited what the future holds.  “How do you beat this place?” Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek told the Colorado Springs’ newspaper The Gazette. “It has been a terrific week. Having the magic and the history that emanates here, all the great American athletes that have trained here, it sparked the enthusiasm we’ve had. We’re very proud we can now add to that history.”

Congratulations to every participant, all of the winners (click here to see all results), and all of the staff, volunteers, and sponsors who made the inaugural Warrior Games such a tremendous success.  And finally, take a moment to check out last night’s “Making a Difference” segment on NBC News, a fitting tribute to our warrior athletes…

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Warrior Games Kick-off on Today Show!

Army Spc. Craig C. Smith, a below-the-right-knee amputee and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran recovering at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., gets ready to throw an outlet pass down court during a wheelchair basketball practice April 13, 2010, at Walter Reed. Smith and others recovering at Walter Reed are training for the inaugural Warrior Games May 10-14 in Colorado Springs, Colo. The games will feature Paralympic-style competitions to challenge disabled veterans and wounded active duty servicemembers. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden)

The Warrior Games are just days away!  These games will bring 200 wounded Troops and veterans together for Olympic-style feats of athleticism in Colorado Springs, beginning May 10 and running through May 14.

Before the games get started, though, members of Rolling Thunder are taking a cross-country tour, raising flags over Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., and bringing those flags to the games as a way to honor all 9/11 victims.  Several athletes and a member of Rolling Thunder were featured on the Today Show this morning!

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