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'It's time to get back together' | USO tour brings 'new normal' after height of COVID-19 pandemic

Community members gathered at Fort Hood Stadium Friday evening for music, food and more after a year apart due to the pandemic.

FORT HOOD, Texas — Hundreds of people crowded onto the field of Foot Hood Stadium Friday night to enjoy food and live music from the USO tour. It featured country duo LOCASH, reigning Miss America Camille Schreir, comedian Taylor Williamson, DJ J Dayz and many other entertainers.

In any other year it would not have been unusual, but the tour was cancelled last year after just a few shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it represented the return to normalcy soldiers and families needed. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force General John E. Hyten said the pandemic has been hard on morale everywhere.

"The whole country shut down. It's been hard on everybody, " Gen. Hyten said. "It's been hard on the folks in the Pentagon...a hard year here in Killeen on Fort Hood."

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Hyten said the USO tour would normally hit multiple bases overseas but that still wasn't an option this time around. They wanted to make sure to tour the larger military bases across the county. The tour had seven stops across the U.S. as well as one in Guantanamo Bay. It will finish up in Maryland on July 3. The mission, Hyten said, was to find a way to raise troops' spirits in this tough time. 

"The best part of this tour is standing on stage and looking down on smiling faces. Oh my gosh, to see smiles again is just awesome," Hyten said. "There is stress in our career field. There is stress everywhere...This is about looking forward. This is about thanking the men and women that serve our country everyday."

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One of the biggest names on the tour was country duo LOCASH. Chris Lucas and Preston Brust said this was their fourth time doing the tour, but this run had a special significance.

"I feel like this is the concert that says America's back," Brust said. "It's time to get back together. It's time to smile. It's time to hug. It's time to get our hands up and feel good again."

Lucas told reporters it was great to see people together again and connecting over music.

"I remember a couple nights ago, there was a guy over here singing every word, there was another guy over here singing every word. And they automatically just kind of bonded right in the middle singing every word and looking at each other. Had never met before in their lives." 

The show on Fort Hood also included Miss America, comedian Taylor Williamson, DJ J Dayz, Black Heart Saints, as well as others.