Singer-songwriters Keni Thomas, Craig Morgan and Mark Wills are spending part of the holiday season entertaining the troops during a nine-day USO tour of the Middle East. Hosted by U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston, the 2008 Hope and Freedom tour will visit three nations and will also feature TV personality Leeann Tweeden, comedian Lewis CK and the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders. Thomas, who was a staff sergeant in the Army, said he understands the importance of such tours. "As a veteran, I understand what it means to have someone come visit you in a combat zone," he said. "For a moment, the soldiers are reminded that the folks back home haven't forgotten them. For a moment, they can take a break from the seriousness of what we are asking them to do on our behalf."