By Lt. David Carter and Morgan Over, Naval Station Rota, Spain Public Affairs
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined several celebrities at Naval Station Rota, Spain, as their first stop on the USO Holiday Troop Visit tour, Dec. 6.
Gen. Martin Dempsey and his wife, Deanie, made their fourth USO Holiday Tour visit and were joined by celebrities including actor-comedian Rob Riggle, country music star Kellie Pickler, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, and actresses Meghan Markle and Dianna Agron.
Not only did they bring talent, jokes, and motivation but they also hand-delivered nearly 200 dozen cupcakes from a bakery in Washington, D.C.
During the daylong visit the Dempseys and celebrities visited Sailors aboard USS Ross (DDG 71), dined with service members at the base galley, then entertained the crowd of nearly 1,500 with jokes, poems, songs, and words of appreciation.
"It's the holidays and we should remember all the things we are and should be thankful for, but I hope you're as proud of what you do as we are of what you do," said Dempsey.
Aboard Ross, Dempsey and the celebrities toured spaces and were briefed on Ross' capabilities as well as her recent patrol. Following the tour, Dempsey held an all-hands call during which he highlighted Ross' resolve and praised the crew's aptitude.
"I'm really, really glad you're on our side because when I see the kind of capability that we bring to bear and the technology we bring to bear I always remember that we can always have the best technology in the world but if it wasn't for you, the best and brightest of America who are willing to leave their homes and forward deploy, if we didn't have you willing to do that, we wouldn't be the country we are," said Dempsey.
Highlighting Ross' role in the NATO and European Phased Adaptive Approach of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), Dempsey left a message for those aboard the ship as well as providing support from the base.
"They're in such an incredible strategic location, nearly where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean ... and with all the challenges we have in the Middle East and North and West Africa in addition to the BMD missions, I want them to know they're in the right place at the right time for their country," he said.
The USO show was filled comedy, music, and heartfelt appreciation from the celebrities.
"You guys have gone out there, sacrificing for us and we wouldn't be able to do the things we do without you guys," said Fister. "It's something that doesn't go unnoticed and we're definitely supporting from home."
Markle echoed Fister's sentiments and remarked about how meeting the troops amplified the connecting she felt to the base.
"Hearing their stories, where they're from, who their families are and just having that connection to the base made it so real," said Markle. "Today has been a day filled with a lot of chills and a lot of tears."
The visit coincided with Morale, Welfare and Recreation Rota's Holiday Wonderland celebration, which brought a special visit from Santa via a Spanish helicopter. This year's event featured a train ride, games, and even snow.
"Holiday Wonderland is one of our largest annual events and we have been trying to raise the bar every year," said Paul Savarese, Rota's MWR director. "Two months of planning and coordination was evident in the execution, as an all-star team of professionals from a number of local departments and commands came together and created something very memorable for NAVSTA Rota. It was something we are all very proud to be a part of and will remember for the rest of our careers."