Happy New Year from the USO

As 2009 is rushed to a close, we hope you’ll take a few moments to make a tax-deductible gift to support our men and women in uniform. They make countless sacrifices on our behalf every day. And today, we can let them know they are on our minds and in our hearts.

Act before midnight tonight. Make a tax-deductible donation of $25 or more to support our Troops.


America’s service men and women have done so much throughout 2009 to serve our country. And we will be asking a great deal of them in the year ahead.   Before the clock strikes midnight, let those involved in dangerous duty far from home know that they are not forgotten.  Thank you for reaching out to our troops, to ease their burdens and lift their spirits.  Until Every One Comes Home.

Even Toddlers Support the USO

We know that hundreds of you have visited our coloring pages and downloaded the images of “Fort Knox” cartoonist Paul Jon.  And the images coming in are fantastic!  Artist Jill Ho and her son Odin are fans on Fort Knox’s Facebook page, and decided the coloring contest would be a great winter activity.  Check out the young artist’s work:

Has your own kiddo created a masterpiece with our coloring sheets?  It’s not to late to email us a scanned image or picture of your little one.  And while some of the sheets are holiday specific, others are perfect for any time of year, whether you’re a military family or just looking for a fun family project.  Email our blog team with your creations today!

More Images from Operation Proper Exit III

Crew members of a US Army BlackHawk helicopter hold an American flag as they pose with five returning Wounded Warriors at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (left to right): Captain Sam Brown, Sergeant First Class Josh Olson, Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz, Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired), and First Lieutenant Jim Kirchner (Retired). (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) spreads his arms wide as he prepares to greet comrades of the Oregon National Guard at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. Congleton, who lost a leg in a IED blast in 2004, returned to Iraq with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit". (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) hugs a comrade of the Oregon National Guard at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz (left), who lost both arms and was badly burned in a IED blast in 2007, and returned to Iraq with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit", talks to soldiers at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant First Class Josh Olson (left), Captain Sam Brown, and his wife, Captain Amy Brown are all smiles after arriving with a group of returning Wounded Warriors on "Operation Proper Exit", at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

First Lieutenant Jim Kirchner (Retired) (second from right), who suffered severe injuries in a mortar attack in Iraq in 2005, and returned with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit", chats with soldiers at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) (second from right) poses with comrades of the Oregon National Guard at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. Congleton, who lost a leg in a IED blast in 2004, returned to Iraq with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit". (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

United Through Reading Connects Troops, Families…and Staff, too!

Sophia Konopa and Isabella Segovia Reading Their USO Books

Deploying during the holidays is never easy, but one program eases the strain of separation through books.  United Through Reading lets Troops record of DVD of them reading a story to their children, then a copy of the book and DVD are sent directly to the kids.

As Washington Post staff writer Hamil R. Harris reported, those who work on the front end of the program – like Jim Kinnear at BWI Airport – instantly see the positive effect it has on Troops: “‘They love sending a video of them back to their children,’ he said of the military men and women. ‘The children can watch it whenever they want.'”  You can read the full article and see an interview with Jim Kinnear in Washington Post online.

On the receiving end of all those stories are the families.  Major Matthew D. Konopa recently sent an email to the USO detailing his own family’s experience with United Through Reading:

“Attached is the photo of my youngest daughter, Sophia Konopa (6) and Granddaughter, Isabella Segovia (1) back in Wade, North Carolina (near Fort Bragg) reading their USO Books recorded and mailed from Sather Air Base, Baghdad, Iraq.  The Service member of course is me, Major Matthew D. Konopa, Chief of Human Resources (S-1) of Task Force 28 and the Hospital here on Sather.  This is a wonderful program that is truly appreciated.  Thanks and have a great day.  -MAJ Konopa”

We will have a great day, knowing that another family has remained connected through this wonderful program!

Operation Proper Exit III – A Photo Essay

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Captain Sam Brown of San Antonio, Texas (right) hugs his wife, Captain Amy Brown, who surprised him by unexpectedly showing up at an event to honor US military Wounded Warriors, at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. Attending are (left to right): Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz, Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired), and First Lieutenant Jim Kirchner (Retired). (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant First Class Josh Olson (right), who lost a leg in a 2003 RPG attack in Tal Afar, chats with military personnel who welcomed returning wounded warriors at an event at the Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

US Army Chief of Staff Major General Joseph Anderson (second from right) holds a discussion with a group of Wounded Warriors (clockwise from left): Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) of Sutherlin, Oregon, Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz of Moline, Illinois and Captain Sam Brown of San Antonio, Texas, at the Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Captain Rob Brown, of San Antonio, Texas, assists Sergeant First Class Josh Olson, of Spokane, Washington, with his crutches as they exit a C-130 and are received by a US Air Force Honor Guard, on arrival at Sather Air Base, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

So This Wounded Veteran Walks into a Bar…

Operation Proper Exit is a program that returns wounded warriors to the place of their injuries in the hopes of finding closure and a sense of purpose in their service.  Although many left the field of battle unconscious, only to wake up a world away at a later time, the men participating in OPE say that there is peace to be found in leaving the field for a second time, this time by their own volition.  That is the proper exit they deserve.

Photo by Katie Hayes for NPR

As the third iteration of Operation Proper Exit makes its way through the Persian Gulf, one story of another wounded veteran caught our attention. Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline suffered burns on almost half of his body after being wounded in Iraq in 2007.  Remarkably, he has turned this experience into – you ready for this? – a career in comedy.  And that’s no laughing matter.  Well, actually, it is.

Recently interviewed by Andrew Short for Punchline magazine, Henline conceded that his “ultimate goal is to put together a USO tour and give back to the veterans, using his injuries and comedy as an example of making the best of the darkest situations.”  How cool is that?  We’re so flattered.

If you live in the San Antonio, TX, area you can catch him live at Rivercenter Comedy Club.  Luckily for everyone else, NPR’s Terry Gildea interviewed Henline; you can hear the interview below.  To read a full transcript or view the acc0mpanying article, please visit NPR’s website.  We are incredibly inspired by his story and hope you will be, too.  And keep an eye on this blog for upcoming pictures and more from Operation Proper Exit.

Wounded Vet Takes Pain Of War To Comedy Club (via NPR)