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Bush pays tribute to U.S. forces at USO anniversary

By VALERIE KUKLENSKI

LOS ANGELES -- President Bush paid tribute to America's warriors Friday at a celebration of the USO's 50th anniversary attended by two former presidents and thousands of troops just back from the Persian Gulf.

With Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney also in the audience, the celebration, 'Welcome Home, America,' ended with the entire audience joining hands, on its feet, swaying and singing along to Lee Greenwood's ballad, 'God Bless the USA.'

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The event was a celebration of the victory in the gulf as well as an opportunity to pay homage to the United Service Organizations, a nonprofit group established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt only a few months before the United States' entry into World War II to assist and entertain service personnel.

The show, to be aired April 14 on ABC, was taped at the Universal Amphitheater before a capacity audience of about 6,000. Some 4,000 of those in the audience were men and woman representing all branches of the military and from a number of bases around California.

With the stage transformed into a glittering stars-and-strips platform, Frank Sinatra, a longtime favorite of USO audiences, sang 'What is America to Me?,' a sentimental ballad from the mid-1940s.

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The audience spent about half the two-hour show on its feet, offering standing ovations to former Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

Among the performers were Tony Danza, who tap danced with a chorus line to George M. Cohan songs and Debbie Allen, who danced to James Brown's 'Living in America.'

There was plenty of humor as well.

Satirist Mark Russell toldd naa

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