- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In my recent interview with The Washington Times, I talked about the great celebrity response to opportunities to entertain the troops through the United Service Organizations (USO). I said that the Obama administration is extremely supportive of our activities for troops and their families around the world, and that support from the entertainment community continues to be very strong. In a letter to The Times (“USO hypocrisy,” May 25), Terri Hammersmith asked, “Why is it suddenly OK for these celebs to go into war zones now that Barack Obama is president when it wasn’t when George W. Bush was president?”

The fact is that the USO averages 60 to 70 entertainment tours each year for troops stationed all over the world. These tours produce between 400 and 500 performances and events, meaning that almost every single day of the year, somewhere in the world, USO celebrities are out with our troops. Since 2001, more than 1.3 million service members and their families have seen more than 600 entertainers and celebrities put on nearly 3,000 performances. Most of the celebrities who participate in these shows come back to us time and again - especially those who visit troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. That has not changed.

I met with your excellent editorial board just after returning from a meeting in Los Angeles hosted by Gary Sinise and the Hollywood Reporter. I am very pleased to report that the interest in entertaining our troops continues to be strong, just as it has been during the past eight years.

SLOAN D. GIBSON

President and chief executive officer

United Service Organizations

Washington

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