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USO - 75 Years There For The Troops
by U.S. Army Sgt. Youtoy Martin - April 20, 2016

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American Pride: Poems Honoring America and Her Patriots! by David G. Bancroft

The USO's 75th Anniversary Spring Tour landed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and showcased celebrities that entertained service members stationed on the base March 15, 2016.

Service members in attendance at the event got the opportunity to meet and greet country singer Craig Morgan, Miss America Betty Cantrell, NFL player Charles Tillman, and mixed martial artists Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Anthony Pettis.

The USO’s 75th Anniversary Spring Tour featuring (from left to right) country singer Craig Morgan, mixed martial artist Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Gen. Paul J. Selva, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Miss America Betty Cantrell, MMA fighter Anthony Pettis, NFL player Charles Tillman entertained service members at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 15, 2016. Service members attending the concert, including ameet and greet, took time away from their daily routines to enjoy a little piece of home. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Youtoy Martin)
The USO's 75th Anniversary Spring Tour featuring (from left to right) country singer Craig Morgan, mixed martial artist Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Gen. Paul J. Selva, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Miss America Betty Cantrell, MMA fighter Anthony Pettis, NFL player Charles Tillman entertained service members at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 15, 2016. Service members attending the concert, including ameet and greet, took time away from their daily routines to enjoy a little piece of home. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Youtoy Martin)

“(The event) took my mind off everything, if even for an hour or so,” said Capt. Ray Bramblet, a safety officer with Area Support Group – Kuwait and a native of Calhoun, Georgia. “To have somebody come here from my home state, Miss America, and Craig Morgan made me forget the day-to-day grind that we face here.”

Morgan, who wrapped up the event, is no stranger to military life or USO tours. He has served with the USO for over 15 years and also served over nine years of active duty in the Army. Morgan echoes the Army's Soldier for Life initiative.

“The military is a bigger part of my life, even more than the music,” said Morgan. “I've spent more time in the military than the music business up to this point.”
The military is not just something you do, it's a part of your personality, it's who you are, said Morgan.

“For me to come over and entertain the men and women who are serving is very humbling,” added Morgan. “It becomes emotional for me, because I have served and it's been a part of my life and still is.”

During his session on stage, Morgan asked if anyone was a song writer in the audience, to which many said yes, but one brave Soldier raised his hand. He was invited to the stage where he was tasked to create lyrics to a song on the spot along with Morgan.

Country singer Craig Morgan leads a round of applause for Sgt. Mark Bail, a Department of Public Works quality control noncommissioned officer with Area Support Group-Kuwait, during the USO’s 75th Anniversary Spring Tour at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 15, 2016. Bail was called on stage by Morgan to sing an improvised song and received an autographed guitar afterward. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Youtoy Martin)
Country singer Craig Morgan leads a round of applause for Sgt. Mark Bail, a Department of Public Works quality control noncommissioned officer with Area Support Group-Kuwait, during the USO's 75th Anniversary Spring Tour at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 15, 2016. Bail was called on stage by Morgan to sing an improvised song and received an autographed guitar afterward. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Youtoy Martin)

“I was really nervous, but it was really awesome,” Sgt. Mark Bail, a Department of Public Works quality control noncommissioned officer with Area Support Group – Kuwait. “I've been on the stage a lot and I've been a singer/song writer for several years, it's something I enjoy. Being put on the spot it was kind of nerve racking, but it was a lot of fun.”

Bail, a native of Athens, Ohio, said he has been a singer/songwriter for over 15 years. He held his own on the stage and in the end received an autographed electric guitar from Morgan.

“It's awesome for them to take time out of their schedules to show support for us,” said Bail. “This place can get really mundane, stuff like this boosts the camp up. To have big names like these come out here and support us is just amazing.”

The event was hosted by Cantrell, who sung a few numbers for troops, a talent she used in winning the Miss America crown. Mixed martial arts fighters Cerrone and Pettis along with NFL cornerback Tillman brought comic relief to the stage. They entertained questions from the audience, tossed out fighting gloves and footballs to the crowd, and thanked the troops for their service.

Tillman, a 14-year NFL member with the Carolina Panthers, said had it not been for a career in football, his plan was to join the military.

His father served 20 years in the Army before retiring out of Fort Hood, Texas, he said. Now on his 4th USO tour, Tillman relates overcoming adversity after not playing in Super Bowl due to injury, and resiliency every service member should have.

“I realize it wasn't a time for me to feel sorry for myself,” said Tillman. “It was about my teammates, the guy next to me. I tried to be the best coach, cheerleader, water boy, trainer, and equipment manager. Being one of the senior guys on the team, I had to take a step back and motivate the other players. I was on the sidelines getting my guys motivated and squared away.”

Although he didn't go the military career route, Tillman said, he is grateful for everything the military does in keeping everyone safe back home and his role on the tour is to extend a huge thank you.

“I think we can serve in many ways and right now, my way is to let everyone in the military know, worldwide, that I am so appreciative,” said Tillman. “I know liberty is not free, so I'm grateful for what all service members provide for us.”

Learn more about the USO, including how to become a volunteer and/or donor

By U.S. Army Sgt. Youtoy Martin
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2016

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