CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Dec. 22, 2010) - With the holiday season just around the corner, many deployed servicemembers in Kuwait were beginning to feel the strain of being away from their families and friends.

To give them a night to relax and know that Americans back home appreciate the sacrifices they are making, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston kicked off his seventh and final United Service Organizations' Hope and Freedom Tour at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 17.

"There have been ten Christmases soldiers have been away from their families and loved ones back home," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston. "I think for many of our soldiers out there right now it is important to know that people back home keep them in their prayers and really care about the mission they perform every day."

The show, hosted by ESPN correspondent Leeann Tweeden, featured the U.S. Army Band "Downrange," musicians Keni Thomas, Alan Grace, Buddy Jewell and Emily West, Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders Nicole Hamilton and Brandi Redmond, and comedian Chonda Pierce. "I thought the show was awesome," said Staff Sgt. William Smith, a liaison officer with the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment. "They had a really good mix of music and entertainers,"
"Being away from family and friends can be hard, but events like this help us stay focused on the mission at hand," Smith said.

For many of the performers, this trip meant just as much to them as it did to the troops.

"Coming out here is the least we could do," said first-time USO performer James Jones, an Austin, Texas based guitarist for Keni Thomas. "You guys get up every morning and save people's lives. We wake up and go to the studio; it's a way for us to give back."

With this tour being Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston's last before he retires, he was able to look back and remember all the times he has been able to come through and tour Kuwait and see the hard work Third Army is doing.

"Every time I have come through Kuwait, the focus of the Third Army command and its soldiers at being Ready to Fight Tonight and support any mission is second to none," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston. "They do a magnificent job of making us and all the missions up north a success."

As the concert drew to a close, service members returned to their rooms knowing no matter how far they are from home, the hearts of the American people will always be there to support them as they defend their freedom.

The Sergeant Major of the Army USO Hope and Freedom Tour moved on from Kuwait to Iraq and finishes up in Afghanistan with a Christmas Eve performance.

Lt. Gen. William G. Webster (right), Third Army commanding general; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston (left), and Santa Claus (middle) speak with Soldiers during the Sergeant Major of the Army Hope and Freedom Tour at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 17. (Photo by Sgt. Ryan Hohman)