A Life of Dedication: Wayne Newton and the USO

May 17, 2016
(Left photo) The Spirit of the USO Award, which was awarded to Wayne Newton in 2004. (Right photo) A May, 2016 photo with Newton and members of the Las Vegas USO. Taken at the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on the Strip.
(Left photo) The Spirit of the USO Award, which was awarded to Wayne Newton in 2004. (Right photo) A May, 2016 photo with Newton and members of the Las Vegas USO. Taken at the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on the Strip.

With Memorial Day almost here, we’d like to turn to a serious, but also heartwarming, side of Wayne Newton’s life.

Since he was a small child in living in Virginia, he has been a proud supporter of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. Further, he’s had a decades-long relationship with the USO, the revered non-profit that provides programs, services and live entertainment to United States soldiers and their families. Since World War II, millions of Americans have enjoyed entertainment-packed USO shows both here and abroad.

In fact, some of those individuals had the opportunity to watch Newton perform at his first USO show when he was just in first grade. One of those lucky audience members was none other than former President Harry S. Truman!

A few years later, Newton was unable to enlist in the military due to asthma, despite his interest. Undaunted, he chose to serve his country in a way only a few can — through music. This led the entertainer across oceans and continents to perform for members of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines in far-flung theaters of war as well as at peacetime stations. Of early note, he visited Vietnam twice during the turbulence of battle in Southeast Asia.

In the decades to follow, he continued to travel to strife-ridden lands to bring a few hours of much-needed relaxation and spirit-raising support to servicemen and servicewomen. For instance, he was the first performer to entertain American troops in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Iraq in 2003. This led to him being treated to a very special private reception at the White House by former President George W. Bush and his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush!

The USO bestowed one of the greatest — and most humbling — honors in Newton’s entire life in 2000. At that time, he was chosen to take the torch of “Chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle” from none other than the great and incomparable Bob Hope. It’s a heady but gratifying responsibility.

Visitors to the Wayne Newton Museum at Casa de Shenandoah can see a very lovely symbol of his USO service near its entrance, courtesy of the Department of Defense. There, our guests will see a glass bowl-shaped map of the world suspended above an engraved base. It reads the following:

Spirit of the USO Award Presented
to Wayne Newton for His Lifetime of
Dedication to U.S. Troops Around the World
October 14, 2004 Washington, DC

An other award stemming from his association with U.S. Armed Forces include Newton being named an “Honorary Green Beret” at a 1999 ceremony at Ft. Bragg, the home of the Marines.

Newton continues to be involved with the USO. Earlier this year, he participated the Las Vegas USO chapter’s 75th anniversary celebrations.

“Entertaining for our men and women of our armed forces overseas has been one of the highlights of my life,” says Newton.

Finally, as a fun fact, the Las Vegas USO Center is located at McCarran International Airport. The street address, you ask? It’s a classic – 5757 Wayne Newton Blvd.!