As president and CEO of the USO and a former commandant of the U.S.
Marine Corps, I would like to express my gratitude, on behalf of all the men
and women of the Armed Forces, to the fine group of entertainers who
recently participated in the ''Operation Starlift'' USO tour.
As you may be aware, ''Operation Starlift'' brought Salma Hayek, Garrett
Morris, Danica McKellar and the perennial USO entertainer, Johnny Grant,
to visit service members in Kosovo and Macedonia during the Thanksgiving
This tour was a resounding success and brought cheer and happiness to
thousands of peacekeepers in uniform. However, I am concerned by the
recent controversy concerning the objection by Mexican officials to Salma
Hayek's participation in this tour (''Hayek tour draws Mexican ire,'' Life,
I do not presume to challenge or debate the government of Mexico's position
or that of individual Mexican officials relative to the NATO peacekeeping
mission in Kosovo. However, having received an extraordinary number of
reports of the humanity and kindness conveyed by Miss Hayek to all those
service members with whom she visited -- U.S. and foreign national
peacekeeping troops as well -- I can say that her participation in this USO
tour was an extraordinary contribution to the spirits and morale of some fine
young men and women in the service of international peace.
Salma Hayek and the rest of the ''Operation Starlift'' troupe selflessly gave
of their time to bring a spirit of home to troops spending their holidays in the
difficult Balkan winter. Miss Hayek most certainly conveyed a superb
representation of the warmth, sincerity and strong character of the Mexican
people. Her visit, which came in response to a personal invitation by the
troops through the USO, brought laughter and a few minutes of happiness to
the young men and women who are in Kosovo not to bring war but to
maintain the peace.
The USO is a non-political organization. Our entertainers and volunteers
serve with one purpose -- to extend the genuine outreach of the American
people to those young men and women who have dedicated their lives to
serving their country. This has been our mission for nearly six decades.
Salma Hayek is the latest in a long tradition of entertainers who have
donated their time and talents to boost the morale of our troops. Her stated
goal was to deliver some holiday cheer to every soldier, sailor, Marine,
airman and Coast Guard member she could, and this she did superbly. We
are honored to welcome her to the USO family.
I am extremely proud of Miss Hayek as a talented actress, a fine
representative of her great country, but even more so as a lady of uplifting
character. I truly hope that the citizens of her native Mexico will be equally
proud of her for her care and concern for young, international peacekeepers
far from the comforts of home and family.
Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr. (retired)
United Service Organizations