USO promises big-name holiday performances for troops overseas
WASHINGTON — The USO is promising big names this holiday season for entertaining troops serving overseas.
But they can’t say exactly where yet. Or when. Or who.
The USO has released a partial list of celebrities heading downrange this month — Henry Rollins, Al Franken, Daryl Worley and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders among them — but security concerns limit how many details can be made public.
USO spokesman John Hanson hinted the group also has other prominent acts already lined up for Christmas and New Years’ trips to visit the troops.
“Our goal is to push a lot of celebrities out there, because of the holidays,” he said. “I’d love to be able to say everyone who’s going, but we can’t because of security concerns.”
That’s a stark contrast from the large, flashy USO holiday shows from the Vietnam era, when most troops and civilians knew not only who was heading over to entertain the troops but also could watch the shows on U.S. network television.
From 1954 to 1972, Bob Hope hosted a televised December variety show from military sites outside the United States, allowing the American public to see not just the entertainers but also the troops serving overseas.
Hanson said that type of open, large-scale event will likely never return. Back then, Hope covered many of the upfront production costs, and the military paid for things such as transportation of the stars — both large expenses the USO is responsible for today.
“Plus, big tours create a big crowd, and that creates an even bigger target,” he said.
“We already rely on military assets for things like transportation in country. For every person we’d need to use for security at a big event, that’s someone who can’t do a military mission somewhere else.”
Rachel Tischler, director of entertainment for the USO, said the absence in the headlining holiday gala is the major difference in entertainment operations today.
The USO still runs about 50 smaller tours each year, usually making stops at several bases to maximize the number of troops the celebrities can meet.
Hanson said security protocols prohibit his office from making public the schedule until a day or two in advance, but units receiving the entertainers are given more advance notice so the servicemembers can prepare.
“In most cases they know the all details before we do,” he said. “We never have celebrities show up to troops who didn’t know they were coming.”
Upcoming entertainment for troops overseas. Who, when and where.
Henry Rollins TBD (December) Middle East
Craig Furgeson TBD (December) Middle East
Al Franken TBD (December) Middle East
Leeann Tweeden TBD (December) Middle East
Darryl Worley TBD (December) Middle East
*Karri Turner TBD (December) Iraq and Kuwait
*Jim McMahon TBD (December) Iraq and Kuwait
The Jonas Brothers Dec. 13 to 17 Germany
**Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Dec. 12 to 20 Korea
*—part of the “Stars for Stripes” overseas tour
**—the cheerleaders are scheduled to appear in the Middle East as well, but dates have not been released yet.
Source: USO, Stars for Stripes