First lady, Dr. Biden kick off Sesame, USO tour Published April 15, 2011 By Elaine Sanchez American Forces Press Service COLUMBUS, Ohio (AFNS) -- Calling out over thousands of screaming fans, Elmo introduced a few new friends to Sesame Street here April 14. First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, stepped onto the auditorium stage and into the arms of Elmo and friends as a crowd of local military and community families stood and cheered. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden hosted the concert-style event to thank military families and to encourage community members to support and honor them as part of their "Joining Forces" military family support initiative. The event also helped to kick off the fifth installment of the Sesame Street and USO Experience for Military Families, a free traveling tour exclusively for military families. Sloan Gibson, the USO president, who also stopped by the event, thanked the military children in the audience for their contributions to the family, especially during deployments. "It's a big job, it's a hard job sometimes, and it's a very important job," he said. "Thank you for what you do for your moms and your dads." "When a (service member) is deployed, the entire family is deployed," added Gary E. Knell, the Sesame Workshop CEO and president. "We care about you (and) what it's like to be a kid in the military." The Sesame Street Muppets offered the audience a preview of the traveling show, which features a new theme and a new character named Katie, a military child who is about to move. During the musical show, Katie opens up to her Muppet friends about her fears, and excitement, over her upcoming move. With the help of a few songs, Elmo and other Sesame pals reassure her that she'll make new friends while still remaining close with old ones. The show will kick off its around-the-world tour with a stop in Alaska later in April, and will continue with stops in Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Spain. The show made its debut in July 2008 to help families cope with military-related challenges, including deployments and homecomings, a USO news release said, and is part of Sesame Workshop's "Talk, Listen, Connect" initiative for military families. Since the tour's inception four years ago, The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families has logged more than 61,200 miles to 90 bases in 33 different states and nine countries, a USO news release said. The tour also has performed 315 shows for more than 192,600 service members and their families. For up-to-date tour information, people can visit the USO website at http://www.uso.org.