Throughout the years celebrities have volunteered their time and talents, traveling to foreign countries. Aside from performing, celebrities commit to shake hands, sign autographs, teach clinics and help service members. Celebrities from all legs of the entertainment industry have volunteered. Celebrity performances often take place in unique locations, such as airplane hangers, flatbed trucks, military tents and bunkers.
Thousands of celebrities have entertained the troops in the last 68 years. Probably the most famous entertainer of the troops is actor and comedian Bob Hope.
Hope began performing for the USO in 1941 at March Field in California. He toured and entertained service members through World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. In all Hope headlined 60 USO tours for 50 years. For his service through the USO, he was awarded the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1968.
One of the most supportive groups of celebrities who have volunteered to support the troops throughout the years is country music stars.
The USO’s partnership with the country music industry started when the USO started. Popular players from the Grand Ole Opry and Gene Autry’s radio show, “Melody Ranch,” traveled on several USO tours, entertaining service members stationed all over the world. Among the country music stars who toured with the USO in the 1940s were Red Foley, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Rod Brasfield, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Williams and more.
Country music stars continued to enthusiastically tour with the USO in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Among the stars to tour during these years were Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, The Judds and more.
The tradition of holiday tours continued in 2000 with Operation Seasons Greetings. Tracy Byrd, Toby Keith, Craig Morgan, Neal McCoy, Darryl Worley, Aaron Tippin, Trace Adkins, Steve Azar, Anthony Smith and James Otto are just some of the country musicians who toured both stateside and overseas.
In addition to country music stars, many other modern entertainment stars have also volunteered to entertain the troops in the last several years. Some of these celebrities are 50 Cent, Ben Affleck, Criss Angel, Regis Philbin, Kathy Griffin and Aerosmith.
In 2008 Kix Brooks, Neal McCoy, Scarlett Johansson, Third Day, Yellow Card and various contestants from the television show American Idol were among the celebrities who entertained the troops.