Comedians Lewis Black, Roy Wood Jr. Talk About ‘Extraordinary’ USO Tour Experiences

Back in Black ... er, camo. Comedian Lewis Black gets ready to fly to another forward operating base during a 2008 USO entertainment tour. USO photo by Dave Gatley

Back in Black … er, camo. Comedian Lewis Black gets ready to fly to another forward operating base during a 2008 USO entertainment tour. USO photo by Dave Gatley

Spring is fast approaching. That also means USO entertainment tours are gearing up across the world.

A trio of NFL stars just visited bases in the Middle East. The Band Perry is slated to preform for troops Monday in England at and the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families is set to launch another year of touring on April 4.

Earlier this week, Politico highlighted two comedians – Roy Wood Jr. and Lewis Black – who’ve taken the USO stage to bring laughs to troops.

“You’re not getting the same kind of sense of self-worth when you get off the stage in Iowa on a Thursday night as you did entertaining a bunch of men and women who just want a slice of home,” Wood said.

Wood – a regular on TBS’ “Sullivan & Son” – wrapped a USO tour to Guam and the Philippines earlier this month.

The Politico story also quoted Black. The legendary stand-up comedian and frequent contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been on three USO tours.

“You go to perform for the troops it’s what it must have been like performing at Woodstock,” Black said. “It’s extraordinary. … The amount of energy that you get on the stage is like nothing — I don’t know what else to compare it to. It’s like an adrenaline rush. They’re so thrilled that you are there. .. It was one of the most extraordinary times in my life.”

You can read the full Politico story on USO tours here.

Photos: NFL Stars Jimmy Graham, Pierre Garcon and Brandon Fields Visit Troops in the Middle East on USO Tour

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It’s football season downrange.

While the official NFL season ended last month, a trio of professional football players are continuing the tradition of traveling to the Middle East for an offseason USO entertainment tour. New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon and Miami Dolphins punter Brandon Fields are currently meeting, playing catch with, and even getting carried around by (see the slideshow above) U.S. troops downrange.

“This experience for me has truly been life-changing,” said Graham, who caught an NFL-best 16 touchdowns last season. “The personal connection I’ve been able to make is something that will be with me forever. I grew up in a military home and this just makes me more of a patriot. I have more of an appreciation for the little things we have back home each and every day.”

USO Tour Veterans Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey and John Fox to Play Big Roles in Sunday’s Super Bowl

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The center of attention at this year’s Super Bowl was the center of attention for deployed troops just one year ago. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning – who set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) this season – will take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Manning went on a USO Tour hosted by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., last February.

Manning kept a journal of his experience for ESPN, which featured this passage:

[I] experienced a true first in my life. I have thrown footballs in lots and lots of places. Boats, prisons, schools, military bases, hospitals, golf course fairways, malls, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, Mardi Gras floats, French Quarter, etc., but I ain’t never thrown a football in an airplane. And I am not talking about little 3-yard lob passes. I was throwing 35-yard bullets to a guy who had the best hands on the entire USO tour, Senior Airman Stephen Gasperic. He was catching passes while trying to avoid falling over luggage, probably a couple of missiles back there as well for all I knew. He fell over a couple of times on some high throws, but he never dropped one. …

Manning will have a few USO tour veterans on the sidelines with him Sunday night, too.

Broncos starting cornerback Champ Bailey went on a USO tour last spring along with former Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller. Miller tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December and won’t be able to play in Sunday’s game.

And the Broncos coach is a USO tour vet, too. John Fox went on a USO tour in 2010, back when he was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

NBC’s Al Roker Going on USO Tour in 2014

Al Roker

Al Roker

Beloved celebrity weatherman Al Roker announced Tuesday morning that he’ll go on a USO Tour in 2014 as part NBC’s Today Show’s Shine A Light series.

The NBC series is a year-long initiative by the show focusing on service and giving back to communities in need.

From the Today.com:

Al’s goal is to join a USO tour, helping to bring a little bit of America to our troops stationed all around the world.

“A few years ago I went to Afghanistan … You see it on TV, but nothing can prepare you for what these men and women are dealing with,” Al said. “We still have a lot of American troops in harm’s way, and I want them to know that they’re remembered.”

Dates and locations for Roker’s tour are still to be determined.

Roker officially joined the Today Show in 1996 and also hosts Waking Up With Al on The Weather Channel.

Last month, NBC highlighted the USO Christmas Convoy, which hit 50 remote locations in Southwest Asia to bring cheer and gifts to American troops who couldn’t make it home for the holidays to be with their families.

Drowning Pool Rocks 3 Stateside Bases on Latest USO Tour

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Multi-platinum hard rockers Drowning Pool are no strangers to life on the road. Having just concluded their summer tour and announcing their upcoming tour dates in Russia, one might think the band would be taking a much-needed break. Instead, they are busy showing their support for troops and military families as part of their second USO tour this year.

The band is traveling more than 1,300 miles over seven days to put on three USO concerts for troops and families. Having already hit Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. and F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., they’ll wrap their tour up tonight with a show at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

–Story by Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications

A Journey to Brotherhood

“Brotherhood is not defined by the bond of blood, but the common tint of the soul” – Frisco Cruise

I’ve watched enough war movies and sports themed dramas to realize that the bonds of brotherhood run deep, but growing up in a household of four women, I never had the opportunity to see those bonds forming in real life.  Well, that was until my recent trip to Kuwait and Germany as part of the weeklong Power 106 & Nick Cannon N’Credible All-Star USO Basketball Tour.

Ready to play some ball!

Ready to play some ball!

Think seven guys (platinum recording artist Baby Bash, Power 106 radio personalities Big Boy, DJ E-man and DJ Thirty Two, actors Arlen Escarpeta and NaNa as well as professional athlete Michael “AirDogg” Stewart) and me, the lone female, packed into one vehicle and you get the story of how I learned about brotherhood on a bus in Kuwait.

A team of 20, we were divided into two groups.  The first included multi-faceted entertainer Nick Cannon and artists from his N’Credible record label Kristinia DeBarge, boy band 4Count and hip-hop artists PWD, and we were the second group.  The objective of the trip, boost troop morale with some good-old fashioned team competition – basketball, anyone?

Our first stop was Camp Buehring in Kuwait.  Our mode of transportation, two 12-passenger vehicles.  Travel time, two hours.  As we headed toward our destination, I was unaware that I was undertaking a journey all my own.

The bus was alive with chatter.   From the Power 106 players recalling their “best of” moments on the court to USO tour veterans Baby Bash and Big Boy reliving their previous USO tour together, it seemed that every sentence began with “Remember that game…” or “Remember that time when…” followed by the laughter that can only come from shared memories.   And then there was me, quietly listening because it was clear that what was happening here was the same thing that could’ve been happening in locker rooms thousands of miles away, or here in Kuwait, in the middle of the dessert where the soldier next to you quickly becomes the brother who protects you – a brotherhood was forming.   And in what seemed like a blink of an eye, two hours had passed and we had arrived at our destination.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.02.46 PMGame time and its standing room only on the outdoor basketball court. A sandstorm on the horizon and you could feel the energy and excitement from both teams.  Cheers and laughter erupted from the sidelines as Big Boy emceed the game, and if it weren’t for the glare of reflector belts, the camouflaged uniforms and the blast walls, I could have been watching any pick-up game at a neighborhood court.

Both teams played hard and it was the Power 106/N”Credible team who finished with top points.  At the end of the game, players from both teams met center court to shake hands, hug and extend their compliments for a game well played. These men and women had sweated together, competed with and against each other, laughed with each other and from what I could tell neither team walked away with winning or losing on their mind, it was the experience they were taking away with them.

As we loaded into our buses and I settled back into my seat of anonymity, the chatter began again but this time it wasn’t about past experiences.  It was about the day, the people they’d met, the servicemen and women they played against and how the experience had changed their lives.  It was clear that being able to say ‘thank you’ to our troops, to bring them a break from their day-to-day activities and to hear from our servicemen and women how much that meant to them, was something that would forever connect these men to our troops.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.01.53 PMOften we think that something really big has to happen to have an impact on our lives, but sometimes it’s a combination of experiences that do the trick.  Being able to listen and watch as these men grew closer over their experience, combined with my own history with the military – hearing from troops how during deployments your fellow soldiers become your family –made me realize that there are brothers who we are born to love, and those whose bonds are forged in experience.  And those kinds of bonds don’t take a lifetime to make, sometimes the time it takes to play a basketball game or travel from one point to another is all you need.

We can’t all go to the places our troops are deployed to show our support, but there are ways that we as Americans can let them know that we are always by their side, and that we recognize the sacrifices they make to serve our country.  To find out how you can help visit us online at www.uso.org.   – Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications Specialist