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American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., March 30, 2010 - Four film, television and football stars are on a seven-day USO tour led by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini, actress Rose McGowan, actor Tony Sirico and New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb are touring as part of an ongoing USO tradition of partnering with senior leaders and working with celebrity entertainers to bring a touch of home to troops stationed abroad. Since they began working in a partnership with the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2000, the USO officials have worked with four chairmen to deploy a dozen entertainment tours.
"I am delighted to once again be traveling with the USO and a great group of entertainers and celebrities who only want to give back to the troops," Mullen said before the trip. "It means a lot to me that they would take time out of their busy schedules to do this, but it means a great deal more to the men and women downrange and in harm's way. It's going to be a great trip."
This trip is the first USO tour for McGowan and Stinchcomb. It's the second for Gandolfini and Sirico, who starred in the acclaimed HBO series "The Sopranos" and traveled to Kuwait and Iraq in 2004, brightening the day for more than 1,700 U.S. troops.
"Having the opportunity to travel on a USO tour with Admiral Mullen and visit our nation's troops was the opportunity of a lifetime," said McGowan, star of "Planet Terror" and "Charmed."
Super Bowl XLIV champion Stinchcomb is continuing an NFL-USO tradition initiated more than 40 years ago. In 1966, the NFL teamed up with the USO and became the first sports organization to send a group of players to Vietnam and other parts of Asia, demonstrating the league's support for America's troops.
"So many of my fellow teammates and friends have gone out on entertainment tours and told me about how great their experience was visiting and uplifting troops," Stinchcomb said. "Now, I can finally relate to them and tell others how important it is to work with the USO and support our troops. War or no war, our soldiers are remarkable and need our support."
Gandolfini is an avid supporter of the U.S. armed forces. He produced an HBO documentary titled "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq" in 2007. Centered on 10 Iraq veterans wounded in 2000, the program debuted in September.
"Our troops are some of the brightest and bravest men and women I've ever met," Gandolfini said. "Sadly, they don't always get the appreciation and recognition they deserve. The USO allows me the privilege to meet them in person, show them my gratitude and thank them for their service."
Sirico said his first tour was 2004. "I am proud of each and every one of our men and women in uniform who stepped up to the plate," he said. "It's a spiritual thing to me. We play tough guys on TV, but me and Jimmy agree, you don't know tough until you see our troops over there."