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 News Article

Winnefeld Thanks Troops in Germany, Italy on USO World Tour

By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

NAPLES, Italy, March 3, 2015 – Military members and their families cheered, clapped and laughed as a USO tour, led by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, performed here today as part of a global blitz to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

The visits are meant to bring a slice of home to deployed service members and their families and show gratitude for all they have done for the nation, said Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.

"We’re really blessed to have some extraordinary performers and athletes here," he said. "We're grateful to you guys and glad to be here."

This spring USO tour will visit various military facilities and entertain thousands of troops. The whirlwind tour stopped today for three hours at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, before moving on to Naval Support Activity here in Naples.

An All-star Cast

In the gymnasium at Naples Middle High School, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck demonstrated his winning technique, tossing footballs to audience members and to fellow football players, Colts tight end Dwayne Allen and Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro.

“It’s great to be here with all these servicemen and servicewomen,” Luck said. “I have a high respect for what the military does, what the men and women sacrifice for our country. We really appreciate everything they do.”

Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev donned her crown and sang "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, as children bopped along to the sounds; Jason "Wee Man" Acuna demonstrated his wit and humor, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Season 11 "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips strummed his guitar and sang, while "American Idol" runner-up Diana DeGarmo and her husband Ace Young, an "American Idol" finalist, belted out Journey's "Any Way You Want It."

The coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Chuck Pagano, and actor Dennis Haysbert both said they were thankful for those who wear the uniform and the loved ones who support them.

"It is an honor for us to be here," Pagano said. "We can't thank you enough."

Tour ‘Means a Lot’ to Troops, Families

The principal of Naples Middle School, Duane Werner, said the visit from Winnefeld and the celebrities, who came from so far away, means a lot to the service members and their families.

"All the time, we have parents who are deployed around the world," he said. "The opportunity when they take time out of their lives to come here, that says a lot."

Emma, 10, who waited patiently with her family to see Miss America, appreciated the effort it took for the traveling troupe to make the journey. "I think it's good because people take time out of their jobs and work to help people like us," she said. 

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Biographies:
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.

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