LOS ANGELES (AP) _ For relatives and friends of U.S. troops serving in Iraq, ``The Ellen DeGeneres Show'' was the place to be.

Studio audience members, all with a military connection, were surprised with the gift of a free cruise at a taping Tuesday. The episode of the syndicated talk show, with guest Tom Hanks, aired Wednesday.

A total of 250 seven-day cruises for four, along with taxes and fees, were given in appreciation of troops deployed from three California bases: Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Camp Pendleton and Fort Irwin.

Celebrity Cruises is providing the vacations, available at any time to allow for troops overseas to take part on their return, according to a spokeswoman for the show.

DeGeneres also joined with the USO to send more than 5,000 care packages to the audience's relatives and friends in Iraq. The episode will be repeated on Thanksgiving on the Armed Forces Network.


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