FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Dempsey Praises Troops During USO Tour Kick-off
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD THE USS JOHN C. STENNIS, Dec. 14, 2012 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff greeted deployed sailors and Marines on this huge aircraft carrier as he kicked off his annual USO holiday tour yesterday.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey introduced this year's lineup of USO talent with Washington Nationals Major League Baseball players Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen; Matt Hendricks, a Washington Capitals' National Hockey League player; comedian Iliza Schlesinger, winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing; as well as country music singer Kellie Pickler.
The chairman was joined by his senior enlisted advisor, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, their spouses, USO President Sloan D. Gibson, and Shane Hudella, of "Defending the Blue Line," an organization that donates hockey equipment to military families.
"On behalf of all of the million-plus men and women serving in uniform, let me thank you for your service," Dempsey said, as the USO talent presented their inaugural show to the ship's crew.
"When the itinerary for the chairman's annual holiday USO tour was being formed, the only thing I said to my staff was, 'Look, we've got to go to the Stennis because we've asked more of those young men and women than we've asked of anybody else in the past year,'" he said.
The chairman acknowledged many of the sailors were assigned to this deployment soon after a short five-month turnaround from a previous combat tour that ended in March.
"You're out here keeping commerce flowing [in the Arabian Gulf], making sure that our potential enemies know that we're alert and ready, and just being the best possible representatives of our great country," Dempsey said.
"So on behalf of the Joint Chiefs, all of us -- the senior leaders of the military -- let me say thanks to you," he said. "And also I want you to pass that to your family members when you have a chance to talk to them."
Dempsey added, "I do want you to tell them how much we appreciate the service of the John C. Stennis Strike Group. We're really, really proud of you."
Battaglia was equally grateful to the crew of the aircraft carrier and pointed to the ship's motto, "Honor, Commitment and Courage," as a symbol of their commitment to military service.
"I was just noticing the powerful-looking image that we have standing behind us," he said, noting an enormous USS Stennis flag, serving as a backdrop for the USO show.
"It's not only the image of naval sea power in its best of form," Battaglia said. "It's those three words that define our profession. It's moving to be able to share that with you -- honor, courage and commitment."
It's tough on troops during the holiday season when they're deployed away from home protecting the nation and its interests, the sergeant major acknowledged.
"[But] we're excited to be here -- we really are," he said. "And we know that you came down here for a specific reason ... you've come here to see some celebrities and entertainers and we're going to get that to you."
"So enjoy the show," Battaglia said. "Thanks, [USS] Stennis!"