Wilmer Valderrama is an award-winning actor, producer, entrepreneur, and activist, who co-founded Harness and serves on the board of Voto Latino. He is also a Global Ambassador for the USO.
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Twenty years ago, I was approached in an airport by two servicemen who thanked me for making them laugh with That 70’s Show during their time overseas, which sparked an interest in learning more and supporting our military. I began working with the United Service Organizations (USO), which has been an incredible opportunity and a true highlight of my career. Supporting our armed forces has become a clear passion in my life; the more I get to know them and learn their backgrounds and stories, the more my respect for them grows.
The true meaning of Veterans Day has become more real to me each year as I continue to be amazed at the strength and resilience of those who have chosen to defend our nation and keep my family and me safe. It has created a fire in my heart to ensure their honor lives on. On Nov. 11th my thoughts are with the incredible men and women whom I have met along my journey working with the USO. There has been no greater honor or reward of my career than spending time with you.
Just as the landscape of the military demonstrates, we are stronger together, we are stronger as one. A credo that I abide by is woven into the fabric of both America and the military - E Pluribus Unum, which translates to “out of many, one.”
The beauty of this country is not in our similarities, but in our diversity, and how all of our backgrounds, ethnicities, and values come together for the good of our nation. Our military exemplifies this. There is no institution more diverse, yet brought together by the same uniform, heart for service, and devotion to our country.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the individuals I have met all over the world, both in combat zones and here stateside, and how much they give to this country by volunteering to stand watch in the night for each and every one of us. Whenever I have the honor of spending time with our troops, I am inspired and strengthened by their honor and resolve and my heart is full of gratitude.
In 2018, I spent the holidays overseas with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, and his incredible team on a USO tour. This trip was different from the others I had been on. Seeing these men and women continuing to put their service first during a time when most are with their loved ones really resonated with me. I loved meeting their families through FaceTime, over the phone, and seeing the pictures of those who take care of home while they are deployed - those families are also my heroes. On this particular USO tour, we made 13 stops in five different countries in a little more than a week. But before departing, I decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery to pay my respects to the warriors we’ve lost. It was an incredibly humbling experience and one I will never forget.
To our troops: my family and I are grateful for you, and we will honor you by doing all we can for this country. Thank you for leading by example to teach this country the beauty of E Pluribus Unum, and the true heart of service and sacrifice. I will continue to do all that I can to support you and hope that as a country we can all learn from your selflessness and the example that you have set - what makes us different, also makes us stronger.