Toby Keith USO Tours Cover a Decade of Memories
Toby Keith is currently in the midst of a USO tour, entertaining troops stationed in the Middle East. This is the singer-songwriter's has ninth trek since 2002, and over past decade he's had the opportunity to travel to more than 14 countries in support of the military. During that time, he's been able to chronicle an experience most Americans will never know.
"This is our 10 year anniversary, and we have surpassed 200 shows," Toby tells The Boot. "At some point, I will put together all the video footage we have from those 10 years and show everyone what a wonderful 10 years it's been."
In total, the "Made in America" singer has participated in 211 USO meet-and-greets and shows, performing for more than 182,600 service men and women on more than 100 military installations. He's also visited Afghanistan, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia, Cuba, Djibouti, Germany, Iraq, Italy, South Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Macedonia.
Add to that the Oklahoma native's current trek, which is splitting his time between five countries during this 12-day USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour. Over the years, Toby has made it a tradition to visit not only the major areas, but the remote forward operating bases to deliver a much-needed touch of home to the troops stationed at those outposts.
"We don't go to Iraq anymore, that's over for us," he explains. "On this tour we are going to Afghanistan for a week, and then we'll go to Kuwait for a week, and then on to Bahrain where we'll start to hit the aircraft carriers. We generally play to about 5,000 a night on the carriers. In between shows we'll catch a helicopter out to some of the battleships and do acoustic sets for the people stationed on them, who don't get to see much entertainment where they are."
By the time he had reached his four-day mark on this trip, Toby had already performed for and visited with more than 3,900 service members stationed in Bahrain and aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, as well as troops in other locations.
"I can't believe it has already been a decade, it feels like yesterday when I first started working with the USO," Toby says. "I've met so many great, brave service men and women over the years and had so many wonderful experiences, that I can barely remember them all. One thing is for sure: I enjoy working with the USO, I love our nation's troops, and I won't ever stop doing my part to extend my thanks."
While visiting troops in Afghanistan in 2006, Toby recognized the need to deliver the day-to-day comforts of home to service members stationed far away from main bases and USO centers. As a result, he formed the "USO2GO" program, which sends electronics, entertainment, non-perishable comfort food and personal care items to troops. Since 2008, 942 "USO2GO" kits have been distributed to 15 countries and more than 600 remote forward operating bases.
Toby's commitment and devotion to the U.S. military goes far beyond his annual USO entertainment tours. At his growing chain of restaurants, I Love This Bar & Grill, he offers a complimentary burger and a drink to service members returning to the States.
Watch Toby Talk About His USO Tours