Dallas Cowboys cheerleader says visiting troops gave her ‘better perspective about what it means to be free’

May 24, 2024

McKenzie traveled to South Korea to support American troops and their families

McKenzie is determined to deliver some cheer to our troops.

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleader recently traveled to South Korea with the USO to visit service members and their families at U.S. Army bases. The cheerleaders, known as “America’s Sweethearts,” hosted dance performances, a youth cheer clinic and meet and greets.

McKenzie told Fox News Digital supporting our troops was a no-brainer.

A close-up of McKenzie in her Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader uniform

McKenzie joined the team in 2020. (Barry Bowden)


“I think it’s easy to take being an American and being free for granted, just because we’re in the hustle and bustle of our day jobs and staying busy,” said McKenzie. “But I think the moment that we’re able to slow down, and the Cowboys were supporting us on this journey and this tour, you see these people. They’ve left their families. A lot of families moved with them to South Korea, and it became a whole family affair.

A group of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders visiting with families of U.S. troops

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have traveled everywhere from Greenland and Iraq to Kosovo and Japan. (DCC/Mariela Padilla)

“It’s not just the people serving [who] are making the sacrifices,” McKenzie shared. “It affects so many people down the line. But just watching them in uniform, learning about the service dogs or learning about the equipment that they use, it just gives you a better perspective about what it means to be free and what these people do so that we can be free.”

The trip to South Korea marked the 85th global tour the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have done with the USO. The first USO tour for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders took place in 1979 in South Korea.

McKenzie on the field delivering a cheer

McKenzie traveled to South Korea to meet with servicemen and women, as well as their families. (Barry Bowden)

Since then, members of the team have toured 42 countries around the world, including Greenland, Iraq, Kosovo and Japan. According to the USO, the team has participated in events during peacetime and conflicts, on flight decks and base stages, for service members on the front lines and military families back home.

A serviceman taking a selfie with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

McKenzie and several members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders traveled to South Korea in February. (DCC/Mariela Padilla)

“I tell people that there’s you prior to the USO tour and experiencing what military life is like from the inside and then you after,” said McKenzie. “I really, firmly believe that anyone who can get the opportunity to go leaves as a changed individual. You have a greater appreciation for your freedom, for the sacrifice that these people make, but also for their diverse backgrounds and the fact that they have a common dedication to safeguarding our freedoms and all that they do for us.

“In a few words? I say this experience was humbling, rewarding and life-changing.”

McKenzie on the field doing a cheer

McKenzie has participated in the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ many philanthropic efforts. (Barry Bowden)


The USO (United Service Organizations) first opened its doors in 1941 for service members to relax and socialize. That year, the organization worked with entertainment executives to create the USO Camp Shows, Inc.

A throwback photo of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on the field

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ first USO tour was in 1979, when they traveled to South Korea. (Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

According to the organization’s website, its first overseas tour featured comedians Laurel and Hardy and Chico Marx and actress Mitzi Mayfair in the Caribbean to entertain the troops. Hollywood’s elite went on to work closely with the USO team to create shows for all types of military audiences.

Before becoming a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader,the Hanover, Pennsylvania, native earned her degree from the University of Alabama. It was there she developed a love of football, along with performing on the field. A few years after graduating, McKenzie moved to Texas, where she pursued her dream of becoming a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

She made the team in 2020.

“[When] they hand you your uniform with your name on it, it’s surreal,” said McKenzie. “I grew up watching the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders during football games … So, it was an unbelievable feeling. … It’s iconic. Not many women can say they have done it.”

A servicemen standing in front of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders

A U.S. Army military police officer stands guard in front of the stage as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders perform for American forces as part of their military USO tour Sept. 15, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq. (John Moore/Getty Images)

McKenzie has participated in many of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ philanthropic efforts stateside. She described how it was an opportunity to meet with service men and women closer to home when not on the road.


“The best thing about sports is that it brings people together,” said McKenzie. “That’s our common ground. They recognize the star in our uniform or our jacket, and that’s an easy way to break the ice. And you have some Cowboys fans there. You have fans of other teams or not even football fans at all. But the main theme is that they know who the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are. They’re excited to see us. And it’s always fun to start with the sports icebreaker and then … get to know people better from there.”

A Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader delivering cheer in front of a USO sign

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have had a decades-long relationship with the USO. (John Moore/Getty Images)

McKenzie said her encounters with servicemen and women have given her a deeper appreciation for our country.

“On our most recent tour, one of the most humbling experiences was [watching] a few of the current service members put on their equipment and hear about what the physical fitness testing is like and how it prepares you to be there on the front lines fighting for your country,” McKenzie explained. “To really feel the weight, literally and figuratively, of what they carry and what they do was definitely an incredible, eye-opening experience.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders posing with American troops

McKenzie told Fox News Digital it’s crucial to let our veterans know how appreciative we are of them. (DCC/MarielaPadilla)

“Outside our involvement with USO tours, we’re still finding ways to give back to people who have served and protected our country,” McKenzie continued. “Before our USO tour, we visited a veterans’ hospital. It was amazing because one of the guys I met was so excited to show me his uniform with all of his patches and pins that he had saved for years and years. … I think the biggest takeaway is even 30, 40 years later, they’re still just as proud of the work that they did and for protecting our country.

A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader fanning herself in front of a smiling serviceman

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are hands-on in delivering cheers to servicemen and women away from their homeland. (John Moore/Getty Images)

“I think there’s just a lot going on in the world,” McKenzie reflected. “I know at some of these camps, the rates of depression and suicide are certainly prevalent… you don’t know what these people are going through until you get there and have a conversation.

McKenzie standing next to a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader speaking with a servicewoman

McKenzie told Fox News Digital the highlight of her trip was meeting with veterans.  (DCC/MarielaPadilla)

“I think it’s important to take a step back, open our minds and appreciate the time they dedicate to serving the greater good of the country. I think we could all be a little bit better at thinking about them more often, keeping them in our thoughts and just learning more about what they go through and what they do.”


A Dallas Cowboy cheerleader handing food to a serviceman at a cafeteria

Members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have participated in 85 USO tours to 42 different countries. (USO/Kevin Arata)

McKenzie noted that you don’t have to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader to help boost morale. Any American can take part in giving thanks to a veteran.

A group of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in uniform with servicemen holding a USO sign

McKenzie told Fox News Digital trying on the equipment of servicemen and women gave her a deeper appreciation for them. (Department of Defense)

“I think oftentimes you’re at the grocery store, or you’re at a restaurant … you may see someone with a hat that says ‘Vietnam Veteran’ or whatever it may say,” said McKenzie. “I think just a simple, ‘Thank you for your service and your sacrifice,’ goes way further beyond what we could ever expect it to go. I know just shaking the hands of these members and telling them that brings tears to their eyes. I’m thinking, ‘How long has it been since you’ve heard a thank-you from someone outside where you are at in the camp?’

“I just think words of affirmation and encouragement can go a long way.”

A servicewoman standing in front of several Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have participated in peacetime and during conflicts, on flight decks and base stages, for service members on the front lines and for military families back home. (USO/Kevin Arata)

McKenzie said she’s eager to hit the road and meet more veterans in need of encouragement.

“Sports really do bring people together,” she said. “It’s important to sit down with them and learn about who they are, what they do and where they’re from. … I think opening our eyes, asking the right questions and being eager to learn has helped to accelerate our appreciation. … I love every second of it. … We could all show love and appreciation for our troops.”