Saving Abel – Coming to Ustream this Thursday!!

Be sure to tune in on Thursday when the Saving Abel USO concert at Camp Arijan will be broadcast on Ustream at 10 pm EST/7 p PST!!

And check out the latest pics as their tour continues through Kuwait…

Saving Abel's Scott Bartlett shares a light moment with Marine Corporal Randy Callaway, 25, of Tyler, Texas, during a USO meet and greet at Camp Arifjan on Feb. 23, 2010. In the region to extend their gratitude to troops, the band will visit three countries in just eight days. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

More than 1,700 troops stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait flock to the stage for an up close look at Saving Abel as they perform a USO concert on Feb. 23, 2010. As part of their eight-day, three-country USO tour to the combat zone, Saving Abel will visit multiple military bases and perform numerous concerts. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

At Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, as part of their first USO tour, Saving Abel's concert will be broadcast on Ustream in early March. To view the USO concert visit http://www.ustream.tv/savingabel. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

More than 1,700 troops stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait rock out in excitement as one of their favorite bands, Saving Abel, performs a no holds barred USO concert Feb. 23, 2010. Known for such songs as “Addicted," 18 Days” and “Drowning (Face Down),” Saving Abel are avid supporters of the U.S. military and have made multiple appearances on bases stateside. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

Rock band Saving Abel performs for more than 1,700 troops stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait on Feb. 23, 2010. In the region as part of their first USO tour, the concert will be broadcast on Ustream in early March. To view the USO concert visit http://www.ustream.tv/savingabel. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

Saving Abel front-man Jared Weeks performs for troops stationed at Camp Arijan on Feb. 23, 2010. Performing such hits as "Addicted," "18 Days," "Drowning (Face Down)" and "In God's Eyes," the USO concert will be broadcast on Ustream in early March. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

The USO’s Board of Governors Visit Centers in Southwest Asia

Two members of the USO Board of Governors recently toured Kuwait as part of a three-day trip. Dennis Swanson and Sue Timken were accompanied by Sue’s husband William Timken, former US ambassador to Germany, and representatives of other major USO partners, including Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading; Steven Nardizzi, CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project; Mary Louise Austin, CEO of USO Georgia; and Bruce Nitsche of the Wounded Warrior Project.

The overall mission of the trip was to give the board and major stakeholders a chance to see the USO in action.  The tour kicked off with an in-depth look of the Wounded Warrior Unit at Camp Arifjan, where they all got a chance to meet with service members in recovery.  Day two of their journey brought them to Camp Ali Al Salem where USO center director Val Burnham and a few duty managers presented the group with a rundown of the special USO programs, which have started there and are actually implemented at various centers across Kuwait.

After Camp Ali Al Salem it was off to Camp Buehring, where they got a chance to see the difference a few miles make since the two bases are only about 25 miles apart. That night the board members wanted to take some of the USO volunteers out to dinner as a thank you. The last day of the tour the group visited Camp Virginia. At Camp Virginia they got a chance to see the base and what it’s really like for the soldiers there.

We’d like to thank all of these guests for spending time at our centers in Kuwait.  You are welcome back any time!

USO BOG

Dr. Seuss continues to unite family members half way around the world. Sally Zoll CEO of United Through Reading discusses a service member’s book selection while he waits to read to a love one at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Sally was part of a three day USO Board of Governors tour of Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Even after volunteering 30 hours in three days, this USO volunteer still has a smile on his face as he poses with members of the USO Board of Governors, Dennis Swanson and Sue Timken at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors member Sue Timken gets a chance to get in on the action when multiple people came up to the USO front desk counter as she checks in service members at USO Camp Buehring. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors member Sue Timken (center) gets a chance to feel as confidant as most soldiers do. Timken along with other board members took time to thank service members for all they do while serving in the Persian Gulf. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Some USO volunteers were so excited to have a nice dinner thanks to the USO Board of Governors who took them to the Seven Seas restaurant in Kuwait City. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO volunteers at Camp Ali Al Salem take time to greet USO Board of Governors members and other dignitaries on one of their stops during their tour in Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors members spend time with troops assigned to the Wounded Warrior Unit at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. This was just one of their stops as part of a three day tour of Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Military Community – All About Being Inclusive

Military Community – All About Being Inclusive
by Maja Stevanovich

I often get asked why I take such an avid interest in the military community considering I have no formal family ties and am not serving myself. Doing a few entertainment related projects was my first interaction with a community that most who are not directly involved in, typically try not to enter.

Growing up in an extremely patriotic household, I have always had an appreciation for the military but it was only when I started interacting with the various organizations such as the USO, the actual branches and other support groups that I realized how special this community truly is. I was truly inspired by the stories that I would hear or witness that I decided to start my blog and share stories that are happening in the military community that may not exactly be front-page news. There are so many interesting, inspiring, and worthwhile stories that should be a part of our conversations.

As an outsider, it would have been correct to assume that I would have continued to feel that way in my quest to connect with the military community. Instead, I was quickly able to connect with other supporters, military personnel, various support organizations and feel like I have been working with these people for ages.

Navy Facebook Page

U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Palmer Pinckney makes updates to the official U.S. 7th Fleet Facebook social media site Nov. 24, 2009, in Yokosuka, Japan. U.S. 7th Fleet began using social media in Spring 2009 to promote interaction with the people who have an interest in the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory Mitchell/Released)

The fact that the military community truly embraces social media, makes it that much easier to connect, learn about their stories and be a part of the larger dialogue going on. If more individuals were exposed to various military blogs, official DoD Twitter or Facebook accounts, they would feel much closer to this community and gain a deeper understanding about who the men and women behind the front lines are and what they represent.

Supporting our troops does mean engaging and there are so many outlets that make that possible. Whether volunteering for a local USO chapter, or keeping up with what is going on through social media, supporting our troops is easier than ever and the satisfaction of giving back to those that give so much to us is unparalleled. With so many of us living busy lives, and struggling to find those precious extra hours, a second look into the military community and who these brave men and women and their families are, is well worth the time.

Maja Stevanovich is the Founder of First Touch Management.  Her blog, Not Your Average Brooklynette, discusses everything from military and marketing communications to social media and pop culture.  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Maja Stevanovich and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.

hoops&yoyo Show their Support for Military Families!

hoops&yoyo

If you saw yesterday’s photo essay on the launch of the Family Care Package from the USO, you probably noticed two very familiar, very colorful characters bouncing around – literally. Hallmark’s hoops&yoyo were in attendance!  And lucky for us they had some time to chat with the USO about the event, how they have fun, and their “awe” of military families…

USO: Why do you feel it’s important to support military families?

hoops&yoyo: Well, USO pals, it’s like this.  If it weren’t for military families, we would not have the FREEDOM to, say, go out anywhere we want for coffee, like, 16 times a day. Or the FREEDOM to run down to the local donut factory when we’re supposedly at a “meeting” for work. Did you catch the key word there, people? Listen up, now – chaaa, it’s about FREEDOM!!!! Those awesome peeps make sure we have it. And their families all give up A LOT while their loved ones are out there doing their super-important work. We have a pretty cushy life because of military fams. They’re all very extremely brave and courageous and generous, and we totally want to thank them a zillion times!  Starting now! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you (you can talk amongst yourselves, this is gonna keep us busy awhile) thank you, thank you, thank you…

USO: How has this event today changed your perception of military families?

hoops&yoyo: We were already soooo in serious awe of military families. But ya know what? Now we are in super-supremely-SERIOUSLY-serious awe! They have to go months and months without dad or mom around to hug them and make them waffles and run through sprinklers with them. Then, when mom or dad come back, they’re sooooo happy and all of a sudden it’s waffles for breakfast every day and humongous hugs like, WHENEVER, and — awwww, doesn’t that make you wanna smile as big as you can??? Hey, military families, you are AWESOME!!! TOTAL SHOUT-OUT!!!!

hoops&yoyo (L and R) stand on either side of USO's President and CEO Sloan Gibson at the Family Care Package stuffing party, Feb 24, 2010. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

USO: What’s a fun thing for Mom or Dad to do with their children when a loved is deployed?

hoops&yoyo: Uhhhhh, hmmmm, maybe send that loved one a hoops&yoyo card??  Or e-card??? (Chaaaaa.) We can think of tons of other things, too! Like, maybe keep a scrapbook of all the things you’re doing so you can show mom or dad when they come home. And make a list of totally fun things you’ll do together when they’re home. And write ‘em letters. And send ‘em videos. And send more hoops&yoyo cards. And send a recording of your voice. With a hoops&yoyo card. (See where we’re going with this? Wink, wink.)

USO: What’s your FAVORITE thing to do when you’re hanging out with piddles, chillibear, marshy, and newbie?

hoops&yoyo: Ooooh, USO pals, we have soooo many favorite things to do!! Like eating pizza together and going out for ice cream and watching movies and eating tons of buttered popcorn and running through sprinklers and climbing trees and playing games and telling jokes and…and mostly, just doing any kind of stuff together. Hanging out TOGETHER is the funnest part of anything.

USO: If you had to choose one word to repeat over and over (and over!) to describe today, what would it be?

hoops&yoyo: That’s easy.  It would be superfantasticalamazingsweetawesomefunimportantniiiiiiceness!

Exclusive Video from the Family Care Package Launch

Enjoy this video of yesterday’s launch of the Family Care Package and take a few moments to read the story behind the story below…

From the Desk of Jeremy Borden, USO Staff Writer:

Nancy Fiscus says that even though her husband has deployed six times, she has never gotten used to his absence.

Her husband, Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul R. Fiscus, is currently on his sixth deployment in Balad, Iraq, as a battalion commander. Nancy was one of the volunteers and military spouses on hand Wednesday at the Army National Guard Armory in Washington, DC, to pack a different kind of USO care package. Instead of going to service members overseas, this one is a “thank you” from the service member to family and loved ones back home.

The pilot program, called the Military Family Care Package program, will allow deployed troops to send their own word of thanks and a few thoughtful gifts, including a journal, to those who matter to them most. “They don’t realize a lot of the things you go through back home,” Fiscus said. “(With the journal) you can at least write it down and get it off your mind.”

Volunteers, including Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and Cheryl McKinley, wife of Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, explained how the program will help in those first weeks after a service member is deployed. They also helped pack 3,000 care packages that will be received by Florida National Guard members who are deploying Thursday, as well as several Air National Guardsmen from various locations, will all receive the packages in mid-March. After they’re received, USO officials will conduct a survey and look to assess the program before deciding where and how it could be expanded.

Inside a donated FedEx box, loved ones will find a journal to record events and memories they can share once the service member gets home, a gift card to the digital photo service, RocketLife, phone cards, Hallmark greeting cards, Verizon phone cards, a gift certificate to Tutor.com as well as other useful items such as local USO information, particularly for the Centers in Pensacola and Jacksonville.

“Today is not about the USO. Today is about our military families,” said Sloan Gibson, the USO’s president and CEO. “It’s really a message to all of our military families, and it’s a reminder to all Americans of the profound sacrifice our families are going through. We want to be there for these families until all of their loved ones come home.”

Alex Baird, the National Guard’s chief of family programs, said the strain of multiple deployments have exacerbated many of the challenges military families face. “All of a sudden, (they’re) gone,” Baird said of the long weeks that lead up to deployment. “Then in the mail comes this package from FedEx, and I’d call it a Hallmark moment when, ‘Oh my gosh, here’s this package from my spouse who was thinking of me on the way out the door.’ That’s why we think programs like this are so essential.”

Dr. Jill Biden greets a DC National Guard member who was a student at the high school where she once taught, Feb 24, 2010. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Biden, whose son, Beau, recently returned from a deployment in Iraq, said her work with military families has reinforced how committed they are. She and others are working to address the many challenges military families face.

“They’ll spend the next year trying to create normalcy … and I certainly know how that feels,” Biden said. “The items in these packages will make life just a little bit easier for them.”

Army National Guard Master Sergeant Shannon Goodwin knows both the sacrifices of being deployed and having a loved one deploy. She and her husband were both deployed in the first phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Even though they’re not out on the battlefield (families are) still serving, they’re still making sacrifices,” Goodwin said. “Being a spouse myself, I think if I received a package like this, it would make all the difference in the world to me.”