By Tracey Hall
One of the fondest memories I have from when I was growing up was watching Bob Hope’s Christmas Specials. Every year he went to visit our troops and bring them some good old fashioned comfort and joy. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the scope and magnitude of those yearly trips.
His first show was at March Field in Riverside, California, in 1941 then began taking his show on the road after the United States entered World War II. This continued for nearly half a century until his final USO tour in 1990 in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield.
Hope headlined 57 USO tours, bringing so much joy to the lives of U.S. military men and women serving in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and beyond. He was deeply proud of this work and most of all, Hope loved to make ’em laugh.
And laugh they did. By poking fun of military brass and blaming bad jokes on the enemy, Hope knew how how to lighten the mood in deadly serious situations. Danger was always an ominous presence, but that didn’t stop the show from going on.
In addition to the quick wit of Bob Hope, troops were also entertained by many famous singers, dancers, comedians and musicians who all gladly traveled along with Hope to the other side of the world- where ever our troops were stationed.
Bob Hope lived to be 100 years old. Though he enjoyed time off especially to play golf, entertaining and applause were what he lived for.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton named Hope an honorary veteran. Hope responded, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime – but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most – is the greatest honor I have ever received.”
For those unfamiliar with Bob Hope, treat yourself to watching some of his videos to see the pure joy in the faces of the audience. These Christmas Specials also brought joy into our homes as we watched Bob Hope do what he did best- Entertain. Every year, Hope would leave the comfort of home at Christmas to visit our men and women in the military. This, to me, feels like the true meaning of Christmas.