The Year in USO Entertainment

It was a huge year in entertainment for the USO. Here’s a look at some of the biggest celebrity experiences and shows we facilitated for troops and their families in 2014. They’re great examples of how — with your help — we make USO moments happen around the world for thousands of troops every day.

Hunter Hayes Creates Unforgettable Moments for a Military Family

Country star Hunter Hayes performed four USO shows in 2014, including late October and early November shows in New York City and Nashville, respectively, that helped the USO celebrate the anniversary of the Every Moment Counts campaign. Watch the video to see how Hayes created special moments for one Army family in particular during those shows.

Al Roker Entertains Troops and Sets a Guinness World Record

NBC's Al Roker headlined the "Today"/USO Comedy Tour in Afghanistan in October. USO photo by Fred Greaves

NBC’s Al Roker headlined the “Today”/USO Comedy Tour in Afghanistan in October. USO photo by Fred Greaves

Meanwhile, NBC’s Al Roker made it his personal mission to entertain the troops and raise funds for the USO. He went on a USO tour to Afghanistan in early October with TV stars Jay Leno, Kevin Eubanks, Iliza Shlesinger and Craig Robinson.

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While that was a huge commitment, Roker topped himself by pulling off the #Rokerthon, a 34-hour Guinness World Record-setting weather forecast that was broadcast between Nov. 12-14 that benefitted the USO. Roker asked #Rokerthon viewers to visit the Crowdrise page he started to raise money for the USO during the broadcast.

The USO/Chairman’s Holiday Tour

Actor/comedian Rob Riggle, actress Megan Markle, country music star Kellie Pickler, actress Dianna Agron, eight-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher and Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister went on this December's USO Chairman's Holiday Tour. USO photo by Dave Gatley

From left: Actor/comedian Rob Riggle, actress Megan Markle, country music star Kellie Pickler, actress Dianna Agron, eight-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher and Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister went on this December’s USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour. USO photo by Dave Gatley

It’s not the holidays if the chairman isn’t on a USO tour. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey went on his fourth and final tour in December, bringing along country star and USO tour vet Kellie Pickler, USO tour vet and comedian Rob Riggle, “Glee” co-star Dianna Agron, “Suits” co-star Meghan Markle, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister.

Kellie Pickler and Aisha Tyler at the USO Gala

Speaking of Pickler, she and Aisha Tyler brought a sparkle to the USO Gala on Oct. 17 in Washington. See what they each had to say about why they support America’s troops.

Troops Hit the Red Carpet at “Unbroken” Premiere

Universal Pictures teamed with the USO on “Unbroken,” a World War II story of heroism that is poised to be one of the biggest movies of the Christmas season. See how troops were treated to a red-carpet experience at the premiere of the Angelina Jolie-directed film.

Trace Adkins and Casey James Rock Fort Hood

Longtime USO supporter Trace Adkins performed a special concert for troops on Fort Hood the first weekend in November, bringing up-and-comer Casey James with him.

Idina Menzel Meets Military Families

Broadway Star Idina Menzel — who became even more famous after her smash hit “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen — joined the USO for a meet and greet with military families in November.

Sesame Street/USO Experience Entertains 500,000th Guest

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families entertained it’s 500,000th guest this year. The long-running USO entertainment tour has touched thousands of military families, including the the Curtises. Take a look.

Rock for Troops

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers KISS talked to the USO about why they’re raising awareness about veteran unemployment and why they donated some of the proceeds from their recent tour to the USO.

Pitbull Entertains Military Families on July 4 at the White House

Mr. Worldwide put on a USO show on the South Lawn of the White House for troops and families this past July 4.

The Band Perry Plays for Troops in Norfolk

The Band Perry sat down with the USO before its USO Virginia Beach Patriotic Festival show to talk about entertaining troops and their families.

Trio of NFL Players Visit Troops Downrange

Pierre Garçon goofs around with a service member on his March 2014 USO Tour. USO photo by Dave Gatley

Pierre Garçon goofs around with a service member on his March 2014 USO Tour. USO photo by Dave Gatley

Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garçon, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and Miami Dolphins punter Brandon Fields visited more than 1,800 troops in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates during a USO/NFL Tour in early March. Read what Garçon had to say about the trip.

Brantley Gilbert Puts on a Show at the Coca-Cola 600

USO tour veteran Brantley Gilbert played a free concert for NASCAR fans and military members before the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the USO played a big role. Find out what he had to say backstage on Memorial Day Weekend to troops still serving in harms way.

Sneak Peek of “How To Train Your Dragon 2″

The crew from “How To Train Your Dragon 2″ stopped by for a special USO screening  at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst earlier this year.

Bruce Willis’ Holiday Message to the Troops

And finally, actor Bruce Willis took a moment to thank America’s troops for the holidays.

Celebrities Hit the Road to Visit Troops on the USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour

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We’ve got the first pictures from this year’s USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour!

The six-day, five-country USO tour led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey features country music artist and eight-time USO tour veteran entertainer Kellie Pickler, actor/comedian Rob Riggle, “Glee” co-star Dianna Agron, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, “Suits” co-star Meghan Markle, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister and USO President and CEO J.D. Crouch II.

Check back here and on USO.org’s entertainment news page all week to see more photos from the tour.

‘I’ve Got Their Back’: Trace Adkins Gears Up to Perform a USO Show at Fort Hood

Multi-platinum country music recording artist, Trace Adkins. Photo courtesy Trace Adkins

Multi-platinum country music recording artist Trace Adkins. Courtesy photo

When Trace Adkins steps off stage after performing in Fort Hood, Texas, this Saturday, he knows he will feel the guilt. It’s a guilt the eight-time USO tour veteran says he feels after every USO show.

“You’ll never find a more appreciative audience than the members of the military,” Adkins said. “Every USO tour I’ve been on, I leave there feeling a little guilty every time. I always feel like they gave me more than I gave them. And it’s always felt like that.”

The multi-platinum country artist, who previously performed at Fort Hood during the 2010 WWE and NBC ‘Tribute to the Troops,’ says there’s something special about entertaining troops and their families that he’s looking forward to experiencing again at Saturday’s show, sponsored by PenFed Credit Union.

“[The band] just play[s] and we’ll dance and sing and laugh and clap and all have a good time, you know?” Adkins said. “And just, for a few minutes [the troops] get to just be at a concert. And not have to worry too much about the day gig.”

In addition to providing troops with an escape, Adkins, who’s entertained over 39,700 military family members on USO tours since 2002, hopes that his concerts give military members, especially those deployed overseas, a much-needed taste of home.

“Hopefully we’ll do something, we’ll do a hit that they were listening to on the radio when they were riding around in the truck in their hometown,” Adkins said. “And those kind of things trigger memories for people and make them feel just a little closer to home. You know? That’s what we hope to be able to bring them.”

Most importantly, Adkins, who’s smash hits include “You’re Gonna Miss This” and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” says that he hopes troops who attend Saturday’s show will leave with their morale boosted and smiles on their faces.

“I just want them to know that I support them 100 percent. That I’ve got their back,” Adkins said. “They’ve always had mine.”

Photos: Hunter Hayes a Huge Hit With Military Fans at His First USO Show

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Country star Hunter Hayes made a big impact at Naval Station Norfolk this week, performing his first USO show, meeting with two USO contest winners during radio appearances and greeting hundreds of fans before taking the stage.

“I can’t express in words what this first USO show was like for me,” Hayes said. “Getting to perform for all these special men and women, and their families – all of you! Thank you for your service, and for sacrificing all the little moments. We love you.”

He’ll be around the military community this fall, too. Hayes is playing another USO show in October for American troops, this time at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, on Oct. 11. He also says he’s excited about promoting the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, even donning a T-shirt with the campaign’s logo at one point Thursday.

“Every Moment Counts – I love those three words,” Hayes told the USO in an interview Tuesday. “I love that that’s what our current focus is. And the message is the fact that they give so much for us, that every moment with them, we never want to take it for granted.”

You can see more photos from Hayes’ Norfolk show on our Flickr site.

Country Star Hunter Hayes Talks About His Military Moment and Two Upcoming USO Shows

HunterHayesPosterHunter Hayes was wrapping up a performance on NBC’s “Today” when a veteran reached out and put a pair of dog tags in his hand.

What the 23-year-old singer thought would be another of the positive fan interactions he’s become famous for on the country music scene was about to become a profound moment.

“He told me a brief story about how he had gotten [my] record while he was overseas and he had listened to it a lot,” Hayes said in a recent phone interview. “It essentially made me feel like I was doing something right with my music.”

Hayes will be looking to make more moments for troops this fall. He’s doing his first USO show Thursday night at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, and has also thrown his support behind the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign.

“Every Moment Counts – I love those three words,” Hayes said. “I love that that’s what our current focus is. And the message is the fact that they give so much for us, that every moment with them, we never want to take it for granted.”

Hayes will be making moments on stage throughout his Tattoo (Your Name) Tour this fall, along with his exclusive USO show stops for American troops in Norfolk and Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, on Oct. 11. The 2012 CMA New Artist of the Year and four-time Grammy nominee will equip concert attendees with wristbands from Glow Motion Technologies to create visually dramatic scenes around key parts of the show.

“Most of our shows that we’ve designed have always had a moment dedicated to our men and women in uniform,” he said. “I just feel really strongly that our appreciation needs to be shown in an extreme way.”

USO Entertainers Stephen Colbert, Katy Perry and Others Win Big at Emmys, MTV VMAs

Gen. Ray Odierno gives Stephen Colbert a haircut during Colbert's performance for U.S. military personnel June 7, 2009, in Baghdad. USO Photo by Steve Manuel

Gen. Ray Odierno gives Stephen Colbert a haircut during Colbert’s performance for U.S. military personnel June 7, 2009, in Baghdad. USO Photo by Steve Manuel

It was a big two days for USO entertainers, who brought home a total of six Primetime Emmy Awards and two MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday and Monday.

Stephen Colbert — whose “The Colbert Report” took home Emmys for Outstanding Variety Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series — went on a high-profile USO tour to Iraq in 2009. Colbert’s mentor Jon Stewart‘s “The Daily Show” also won an Emmy for Outstanding Picture Editing for Short-Form Segments and Variety Specials. Stewart went downrange for the USO in the summer of 2011. And last year, former interim “The Daily Show” host John Oliver and a trio of show writers and producers visited troops in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Comedians Jimmy Fallon and Louis C.K. also took home awards. Fallon — who emceed the USO-coordinated Fourth of July concert at the White House in 2009 — won Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for hosting “Saturday Night Live.” Louis C.K. garnered Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series honors for “Louie.” He has gone on two USO tours — including a 13-base trip to Afghanistan in 2008 — and even worked the USO into an episode of his hit FX show.

“The Big Bang Theory” won Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series. Actors from the show went on a USO tour to meet troops in the Pacific in 2012.

 Katy Perry salutes service members before performing "Firework"

Katy Perry salutes service members before performing “Firework” at the “VH1 Divas Salute The Troops” show in 2010. Courtesy photo

Meanwhile, Katy Perry took home Best Female Video at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards for “Dark Horse.” Haley Williams – lead singer of Paramore – also took home a VMA, winning the MTV Clubland Award for her EDM collaboration with Zedd on “Stay the Night.” Both women were part of the 2010 “VH1 Divas Salute the Troops” show presented by the USO. Paramore did their portion of that show from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, as part of a USO entertainment tour.