Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue: Toby Keith & Other USO Performers Who Gave Their All Supporting US Troops


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Formed as a resopnse to a request from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for civilian organizations to support the morale and welfare of the military during wartime, The USO, or United Service Organizations, was founded in 1941, just before the United States entered World War II. The USO’s mission was to provide entertainment, programs, and services to boost the spirits of American troops and their families. Its iconic shows, featuring top performers, became a hallmark of support for servicemen and women throughout the war and beyond, and many of those performers made a huge impact on service members and their families. Here are 10 of the most notable, including country music star Toby Keith, who died this week at the age of 62. 

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1. Toby Keith

Singer-songwriter Toby Keith’s commitment to U.S. soldiers extended far beyond his patriotic powerhouse anthems (we’ll stick a boot in your …, anyone?). Keith never shied away from his American pride, parading his patriotism throughout his career, until his battle with stomach cancer came to an end at 62. Under his belt, he had a whopping 18 USO tours, starting in 2002, and is said to have performed for more than 250,000 service members, many of whom looked at Keith as an uplifting force they could connect to. 

For his contributions, the country star was awarded the Spirit of the USO Award in 2014. Accepting his award in true Toby fashion, he said, “That caught me off guard. I saw a need and a void the great Bob Hope left behind, and no one was filling it, but as hard as Big Dog Daddy tried, I couldn’t bring Marilyn Monroe.”

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2. Bob Hope

Bob Hope pioneered entertaining U.S. service members during World War II and quickly became the USO’s most notorious tour veteran. Hope’s journey with the USO began a mere nine months into the United State’s entrance to World War II, when he took off on the USO’s first-ever tour, traveling to Alaska. From his first show, the actor and comedian participated in tours through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon Civil War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Persian Gulf War — a 50-year span. 

Hope’s commitment to entertaining troops was undeniable, and he often put himself smack dab on the front lines to show his support. 

Image Credit: Public Domain/ GetArchive.

3. Willie Nelson

A veteran of the Air Force himself, country legend Willie Nelson has been vocal throughout the years about his support for the members of our armed forces. Nelson joined Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey on a USO tour in Germany in 2005, treating soldiers to songs from the “Dukes of Hazzard” movie. 

Nelson has also been known to put on other free shows for soldiers. Before one of his paying concert gigs in 2006, the country crooner “warmed up” with 22 free songs for wounded soldiers at an Army Medical Center. Of that performance, Nelson said, “I have a lot of respect for the military. I like to show them that I support them every chance I get.”

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4. Marilyn Monroe

Carving time out of your honeymoon to show appreciation for the men and women serving our country is admirable enough, but being Marilyn Monroe and doing that is beyond huge. While honeymooning in Japan with New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio, superstar Monroe flew over to South Korea and put on a show for the troops.

Image Credit: Public Domain/ Flickr.

5. Marlene Dietrich

Actress and singer Marlene Dietrich did two overseas USO tours — one in North Africa and Italy and the other in France and Germany. While in Italy, Dietrich was the first entertainer to visit rescued soldiers at Anzio. The star’s second tour to France and Germany lasted 11 months. 

Image Credit: Marlene Dietrich by Los Angeles Daily News/ Wikimedia Commons (None).

6. Kellie Pickler

Since her first USO tour to Iraq in 2007, country singer Kellie Pickler has been an avid supporter of our armed forces. She has participated in 11 USO tours, performing for more than 44,000 troops and their families. For her military support and patriotism, Pickler has received the Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award, the Chris Kyle Patriot Award, and USO of North Carolina’s Heart of the Warrior Award. 

Image Credit: Kellie Pickler by The USO/ Flickr (None).

7. John Wayne

The Duke was alongside Bob Hope as one of the first entertainers to be part of the inaugural USO tour at the start of World War II. During his first tour in 1943, John Wayne performed twice a day for three months straight, visited hospitals, and spent time with injured troops, staying up late sharing stories. 

Image Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain.

8. Mickey Rooney

Comedian Mickey Rooney joined the Army in 1944 as a broadcaster for the American Forces Network. He provided entertainment to soldiers on the front lines through jeep tours, and was awarded the Bronze Star with clusters after entertaining troops under fire. 

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

9. Trace Adkins

Ladies love country boys … who support our troops. Country singer Trace Adkins has completed 12 USO tours, visiting more than 65,000 service members around the world. Adkins was awarded the National Defense Industrial Association’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Award in 2016 for being an exceptional leader and advocate for military members. 

Image Credit: Trace Adkins by The USO/ Flickr (None).

10. Scarlett Johansson

Actress Scarlett Johansson has done two USO tours: one in 2008 and another in 2016. During the 2016 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, Johansson visited troops with fellow “Avengors” actor Chris Evans. She has visited nearly 6,000 service members altogether, among Kuwait, Turkey, Qatar and Afghanistan.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Scarlett Johansson by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/ Flickr (None).

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