‘Huge Morale Boost’: USO Tour Hits San Diego Bases, Miramar

July 2, 2021Mac Caltrider

Miss America Camille Schrier posed for photos with Marines aboard MCAS Miramar on June 30, 2021. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Gen. John E. Hyten and Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramon Colon-Lopez landed in Southern California for the 2021 Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USO Tour on Tuesday. The tour, marking the first in-person USO event since the pandemic, has already visited five military bases in four days. 

The star-studded tour was joined by even more celebrities in California. Actor and USO ambassador Wilmer Valderrama of NCIS and That ’70s Show joined the tour on the West Coast, marking his 46th USO tour. Also joining the tour were actor Matt Walsh, best known for his role in HBO’s Veep, and comedy legend Scott Armstrong, the writer behind Old School, Semi-Pro, and Road Trip.

Members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 “Wolfpack” gave the USO an exclusive tour of their squadron Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The West Coast leg of the trip included stops aboard Naval Base Coronado, Naval Base San Diego, and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. 

Hyten and the tour’s celebrities visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, one of two aircraft carriers currently in port. After touring the flight deck, hanger bay, and galley, the tour moved on to prepare their first California show. 

“This is probably the coolest thing that’s happened to me since I joined the Navy two years ago,” Seaman Brent Lovely said of the USO tour’s coming to San Diego.

DJ J Dayz gets the crowd amped up aboard Naval Base San Diego, Tuesday, June 29, 2021. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.

After being limited by COVID-19 for more than a year, the sailors and their families were eager for the open-air concert.

“We don’t want to postpone the entertainment anymore, so let’s get this show started. Stay classy San Diego!” Colon-Lopez told the crowd. The Anchorman reference energized the crowd and helped unleash pent-up energy.

Country duo LoCash and comedian Taylor Williamson were joined by two-time Grammy Award-winning singer Lauren Daigle for a concert that left some avid fans in tears. Following the show, fans were able to take photos and get autographs with the performers.

USO Ambassador and actor Wilmer Valderrama posing with a fan in San Diego on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.

When the crowd finally dispersed, the tour wasted no time preparing for the next stop aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where tour members visited two squadrons of Marine helicopters and climbed aboard V-22 Ospreys and CH-53 Sea Stallions and got to know the Marines who fly them.

“We genuinely appreciate seeing people make an effort to come entertain the troops and let them know their work isn’t going unnoticed,” Capt. Troy Lerner, a CH-53 pilot, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

Two-time Grammy winner Lauren Daigle joined the tour for its California stops June 29-30, 2021. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The entertainers then moved on to perform their second show in Southern California. The show aboard MCAS Miramar was performed midday, allowing for an intimate setting. Williamson brought one Marine on stage to augment his act and cater to the majority-jarhead crowd. 

Daigle traveled with the USO to join the show in Miramar and brought even more fans to tears, including one unnamed gunnery sergeant who was barely able to keep her composure. Before Daigle ended her set, she was joined on stage by Hyten, Colon-Lopez, and other celebrity talents, and the group tossed T-shirts to appreciative fans.

The USO performed two shows in Southern California in less than 24 hours, including a set by LoCash. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“I’m a drummer, so getting to see LoCash play up close was awesome,” Lance Cpl. Aiden Haynes told Coffee or Die. “It makes being away from home get a little easier.” 

Following the performances, the tour wasted no time packing back aboard their C-17 to take the flying circus to Texas for two more shows.

Read Next: ‘So Others May Live’: USO Tour Hits NAS Pensacola, Rescue Swimmer School 

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

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