POZNAN, Poland -- Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concludes his fifth USO holiday tour at Powidz, Poland, Dec. 26.
Approximately 300 service members, deployed to Poland in support of Atlantic Resolve, were treated to over 700 cupcakes and donuts and first-class entertainment by Olympian Shaun White, actors Wilmer Valderrama and Milo Ventimiglia, comedian Jessimae Peluso, country musician Kellie Pickler, three-time CrossFit champion Mat Fraser, and DJ J.Dayz.
“Since WWII, the USO has provided a vital connection between service members, their families and the American people,” said Dunford. “I believe one of the most important reasons we are able to recruit and retain high quality men and woman in our all-volunteer force is because they know that what they do is appreciated, and that our nation has their backs.”
The evening's festivities opened with DJ J.Dayz mixing up some pop tunes to get the service members to their feet.
Wilmer Valderrama, host for the USO holiday tour this year, opened with a heartfelt thank you to the service members for their dedication and commitment by serving in the military.
“I am so excited to be a Force behind the Forces and partner with the USO and General Dunford to spend the holidays with our service members overseas,” said Valderrama. “Being away from their families, especially during the holidays, must be difficult, and I’m honored to be able to share some time with them and try to keep them connected to family, home and country.”
Jessimae Peluso got the crowd laughing as she interacted with service members. She picked the strongest soldier from the crowd to assist her in closing her set. Then she parted the sea of service members and jumped off the stage. She had the Soldier stand at the end of the parted sea as she stood at the beginning. Peluso cued DJ J.Dayz and the “Dirty Dancing” song “Time of Your Life” began to play from the speakers as she ran toward the Soldier. The Soldier propelled the comedian in the air in tremendous fashion, identical to the iconic scene from the movie and the crowd erupted in cheers.
Shaun White and Mat Fraser connected with all in attendance by sharing personal stories of resiliency and triumph in their respective sports.
“The best part of the show was with the athletes,” said Sgt. Lansberry Woodard. “Being in the Army and working out all the time, I really connected with the athletes and how they got through their breaking points to be the best at their sport.”
“This is Us” star Milo Ventimiglia, chose a service member from the crowd and acted out a scene from the show. It drew laughs from the crowd because the scene involved the Serviceman acting as Milo's character’s pregnant wife.
Finally, it was Kellie Pickler's turn to take the stage, and she did not disappoint. Pickler performed a few of her hit songs to the mesmerized crowd of Service Members.
In fact, Pickler invited the same Soldier that propelled Peluso in the air to accompany her singing her hit song “Red High Heels.”
To close the USO holiday tour, Valderrama invited all the celebrities, along with Gen. Dunford, to the stage to sing “White Christmas,” with the service members.
“They made my day,” said Army Sgt. Katelyn Morris, an administrative non-commissioned officer with the 252 Support Maintenance Company. “It was very personal to us and they made us feel like they were bringing some of home to us.”
Follow the tour on Joint Staff social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Flickr.