By Sgt. David Beckstrom
U.S. Army Central
As the sun dipped past the horizon in Kuwait, stage lights turned on and amps were cranked up as Jerrod Neimann rocked Camp Arifjan, country style, May 18.
The concert was part of the United Services Organization’s May Madness tour, which also brought actors Matthew Lillard and Robert Patrick, Mixed Martial Arts fighter Timothy Kennedy, and basketball Hall-of-Famer Sam Perkins out to entertain the troops.
"I am honored to meet each and every Servicemember out here," said Jerrod Niemann, known for his country single "Lover, Lover." "This has been the most amazing experience of my life and I want the Troops to know that we, the American people, are constantly thinking about them."
Soldiers with the 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group at Patton Army Air Field had the chance to interact with the celebrities prior to them taking the stage.
"It was really cool meeting all of the celebrities," said Staff Sgt. Robert Marshall, a machinist with 1109th TASM-G. "They seem genuinely interested in what I do for my job and how I am doing."
During this gathering, the celebrities talked about themselves and why they wanted to visit the troops.
"I have been doing tours like these since 2008," said Robert Patrick, the actor who played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nemesis in Terminator 2, the T-1000. "It is a pleasure that I am able to be out here for the 75th anniversary of the USO, because the USO is with our troops everywhere they go."
This tour was different because a Soldier traveled with the group as one of the celebrities. Sergeant 1st Class Timothy Kennedy is part of the 19th Special Forces Group, Texas National Guard. While he was on the camp, he explained that Soldiers don’t need to be shy around the celebrities.
"We are here for the Soldiers," said Kennedy. "If the troops want to spar with me, sing with Jerrod, or take photos with us, we are here to do it for them. I love being with my fellow Soldiers and I am grateful that I was able to come out and be with them."
"Coming out here to bolster your spirits is how I pay back my grandfather and each of you for what you have done for our country," said Matthew Lillard, a movie actor from the films "Scooby-Doo" and "Without a Paddle." Lillard’s grandfather served in WWII and was a prisoner of war for five years. Although, his grandfather never spoke of it after returning home, Lillard said it visibly wore on him every day.
Patrick and Lillard were the masters of ceremony and gave a small comedic show while introducing Perkins, Kennedy and Niemann, each in turn did their own acts to entertain the troops.
"Watching Lillard and Patrick banter back and forth before the concert was pretty funny," said Marshall. "I felt like they truly wanted to be here with us."
Niemann said that everything about this tour has been life changing. He was astonished that the young men and women of the military are willing to sacrifice so much for the American people and put their lives on the line, so those back home can sleep safe at night. Each of the celebrities said they plan to continue to do these tours, to repay their debts to Servicemembers.
"I want each of the Servicemembers to know we represent millions of people back home that want to thank you for your service and sacrifice," said Lillard. "We have the opportunity to come out here and thank you personally and we bring the thanks of everyone in America."
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION