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USO spring tour entertains troops in Afghanistan

USO Sprint Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

USO volunteers pose with chef and TV personality Robert Irvine, country singer Craig Morgan, former MLB player Shane Victorino, pro surfer and singer Makua Rothman, and UFC fighters B.J. Penn, Chris Weidman and Felice Herrig after the USO show at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 1, 2019. The USO has been bringing entertainment to service members overseas for more than 77 years to help keep them connected to their home and family. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

USO Sprint Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

A Soldier faces off with UFC fighter B.J. Penn during the USO show at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 1, 2019. Penn and fellow UFC fighters Felice Herrig and Chris Weidman gave service members the opportunity to playfully challenge them onstage as part of their performance. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

USO Sprint Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

Professional surfer and singer Makua Rothman serenades the crowd at the USO show at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 1, 2019. Rothman and six other celebrities also entertained troops at military installations in Germany, Italy, Iraq and Qatar during the five-day USO tour. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

USO Sprint Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

Security forces Airmen from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing pose with chef and TV personality Robert Irvine, country singer Craig Morgan, former MLB player Shane Victorino, pro surfer and singer Makua Rothman, and UFC fighters B.J. Penn, Chris Weidman and Felice Herrig after the USO show at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 31, 2019. The performers volunteered their time to come on the tour to show thanks and support for service members. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

USO Spring Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva plays guitar with country music singer Craig Morgan and his band during the USO show at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 31, 2019. This was the vice chairman’s fourth and final USO tour. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

USO Spring Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

UFC fighter Felice Herrig watches a Soldier kick a can off fellow UFC fighter Chris Weidman’s head during the USO show at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 31, 2019. The professional fighters entertained and interacted with troops during their first tour with the USO. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

USO Spring Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

Service members greet professional surfer Makua Rothman and former MLB player Shane Victorino, both originally from Hawaii, onto the stage at the USO show March 31, 2019 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Hundreds of military members and Department of Defense civilians attended the first USO tour of the year to visit to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

USO Spring Tour 2019 in Afghanistan

A Soldier helps chef and TV personality Robert Irvine cook a meal onstage during the USO show at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 31, 2019. Irvine bet the crowd that they could cook a full meal before another Soldier could complete 100 pushups. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Walter Carroll)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --

Hundreds of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines currently deployed to Bagram and Kandahar airfields, Afghanistan, got a chance to meet celebrities and relax during two USO shows March 31 and April 1.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Paul J. Selva and USO President and CEO J.D. Crouch II accompanied seven performers including chef and TV personality Robert Irvine, country singer Craig Morgan, former MLB player Shane Victorino, pro surfer and singer Makua Rothman, and UFC fighters B.J. Penn, Chris Weidman and Felice Herrig.

“The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians deployed throughout Afghanistan have left behind the comforts of home to serve in challenging conditions to protect our great nation, our friends and our freedoms,” Selva said. “It’s our objective to bring a touch of home to those who are not at home, and more importantly, remind them that America is thankful for their service.”

The celebrities echoed Selva’s thanks during their performances, which required a lot of audience participation and resulted in many laughs and cheers throughout.

“Thank you for serving, for being here downrange,” Victorino said. “It means a lot to me… Something I will never take for granted is to be an American and live in the United States of America. Thanks very much for all that you guys do.”

“You guys are fighting the ultimate fight and sacrificing so much for our country and our freedom,” Herrig added. “I’ll be thinking about all of you and dedicating my next fight to you.”

The show closed with a performance by Morgan and his band—plus a special guest. Selva joined the band onstage with his guitar to play and sing along for the last few songs. Several attendees sang along throughout, and nearly the entire audience joined in the closing song: “America the Beautiful.”

After the shows, the performers--who all volunteered their time to come on the tour--signed autographs, took selfies and chatted with service members, many of whom were star-struck.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Craig Morgan because I grew up on country music, but I’ve never had the chance to see him live, and it was really awesome,” said Tech. Sgt. Tabitha Thomas, a command post controller at the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram. “Seeing the vice chairman play with him was definitely a once in a lifetime experience as well, so I’m glad I was there to see it.”

Thomas said she loved the show and enjoyed the variety of entertainment, but most of all, she appreciated the support from the USO and performers.  

“Seeing the camaraderie between stars from so many different backgrounds was really cool,” Thomas said. “Having something like these shows really boosts morale and reminds us that what we’re doing out here matters.”

This was the first USO tour in Afghanistan in 2019. The last tour was on Christmas Eve and included shows at Kandahar, Bagram and Forward Operating Base Dahlke. The USO has been bringing entertainment to service members overseas for more than 77 years to help keep them connected to their home and family.