WIESBADEN, Germany (Dec. 16, 2013) -- It was an expression of gratitude from across the big pond.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined a cast of professional athletes and entertainers for a special USO Holiday Troop Visit in the Wiesbaden Fitness Center, Dec. 12.
"This is the finale of the USO holiday tour," said Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he warmed up the Wiesbaden crowd of children and adults at the start of the show. "We do appreciate your commitment and service."
"It's been an absolute honor to thank everyone personally for his and her service," said co-host Alison Haislip, describing how she and fellow performers on the tour had an opportunity to gain some insight into military life from those serving in harm's way and overseas. "I've learned so much while being on this tour."
Haislip was joined by Grammy-winning songwriter and performer Bridget Kelly, professional athletes Adam LaRoche and Matt Light, radio personality Nephew Tommy and Duck Dynasty's Jep and Willie Robertson. The group entertained military audiences in several locations in Europe and also took the USO road show to Afghanistan.
"It's been an incredibly humbling experience," said Washington Nationals player LaRoche. "We cannot thank you enough for what you all do."
Describing how as a professional ballplayer in Washington, D.C., he frequently encounters service members on their way to and from faraway places, LaRoche said he now has "a little better idea" of the enormous sacrifices made by service members and their families in the service to their country.
After co-MC Nephew Tommy drew appreciative applause from the audience for a dance contest featuring local youngsters and help from a local Soldier to demonstrate how to survive in Chicago, the crowd was treated to several songs by Kelly, anecdotes from LaRoche and Light, and a personal peek into the lives and upbringing of the stars of Duck Dynasty.
"As a native New Yorker, I have a profound respect for our servicemen and women," said Kelly. "Their dedication and courage make me proud to be American."
During the visit to Wiesbaden the military's senior officer had a chance to visit the Keyes Building, his former headquarters while leading 1st Armored Division, and the Gen. Shalikashvili Mission Command Center. Following the USO show, the performers spent a few minutes signing autographs and handing out keepsakes.
"They really do care deeply about what they are doing for their country," said Dempsey. "Just know how proud we are to represent you."