Wayne Newton, one of the world's great entertainers, first performed on a USO tour at the age of eight and has been entertaining the troops -- on land and at sea, at home and abroad -- consistently since Vietnam. He has given up holidays, vacations and various other opportunities to be with soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in faraway places.
Two years ago, "Mr. Las Vegas" was named the chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle. I asked him how he recruits other performers to join him. "Like everything else, Colonel," said Newton, "there are those that run for the woods when times get a little tough and those that pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, you're going, count me in.' Those are the kind of people we have."
One of those who regularly picks up the phone to volunteer his time is actor Gary Sinise, who this year has been to Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Italy, Germany and Fort Stewart, Ga. Now he's back in Iraq, spending his Thanksgiving vacation shaking hands and talking with the 5,000 soldiers and Marines at one of the USO-sponsored events. Instantly recognizable from his roles in such movies as "Forrest Gump," "Apollo 13," "Truman" and dozens of others, Sinise is a favorite among the troops and a strong supporter of the USO, which some people describe as "an island of tranquility in a sea of madness."
But during this holiday week, the American public can give thanks that the young men and women who wear our country's uniform are more than capable of navigating that "sea of madness." I asked Wayne Newton what the response of troops has been to his visit here.
"The response has been phenomenal," he told me. "We have been mixing and mingling in many different place in the last week, and I have not heard one gripe, I have not seen one person who's down in the dumps. Everybody's charged, they know what they're here for; they're here to take care of business, and they're doing exactly that."
America could use fewer celebrities like the Dixie Chicks and Sean Penn and more like Wayne Newton and Gary Sinise. The soldiers of the Army's 4th Infantry Division told me how much they appreciate the support of the American public and they wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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